Coco farmers elated over SC verdict on coco levy funds
    But warns on pending EO

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    ANGELES CITY-. Coconut farmers have expressed  elation over the recent Supreme Court decision granting partial   entry of judgement for  the execution of its ruling on controversial coco levy fund shares in the  San Miguel    Corporation  (SMC).

    But they expressed fear that a pending executive  order in Malacanang would eventually convert    the fund into presidential pork barrel.  In a statement yesterday, the movement Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa  Amin  (Claim), backed by the Kilusang Magbubukid  ng Pilipinas (KMP), said it welcomed the High Court’s verdict.

    “With the Supreme  Court decision granting   artial entry of judgment, there are no more legal obstacles on 27 percent  shares recovered from Pres. Aquino’s uncle, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco  Jr.,” the statement said.

     But    KMP Chair Rafael Mariano noted that “the President remains as the biggest political  stumbling block for the   immediate and direct return  of the funds to its rightful owners.”  On the other hand, Claim spokesperson Nestor         Villanueva expressed fears that “Pres.  Aquino and his coco levy mafia would turn the multi-billion coconut levy funds  into a perpetual  presidential pork bar-rel.”`

    Villanueva said that the draft executive order  (EO) allegedly submitted by  purported coconut farmers groups to Aquino “is exactly the same EO  drafted by the Aquino administration’sMulti-Sectoral Task Force on the Coco Levy Funds furnished  to us by the Philippine Coconut   Authority  last August.”

    He said that “nowhere  in Aquino’s draft EO is any declaration that the coco levy fund  shall be  returned and directly  used by small coconut farmers.” “Worse, the draft EO will install Aquino as the  Chairperson  of the Coconut  Farmers Trust Fund Coordinating Council,” he added.

    “The draft EO only serves   landlords and big businesses in the coconut  industry and would turn the funds into a  Presidential pork barrel,”  Villanueva added.

    He specifically cited Section 3 of the proposed EO on the purpose  of the trust fund. “It states that  the purpose of the fund ‘shall include the financing of  programs or assistance for the benefit of the coconut  farmers, for increased productivity of  the coconut industry, and  for development of coconut-based enterprises and  promotion of anti- poverty programs.’

    ” He also cited Section 9 on the use and disposition of the trust income, stating  that. “The Council, on an annual basis, shall determine and establish  an amount comprising the Trust  Income. After such determination,  the Council shall determine the utilization of the Trust Income and recommend such to the President  for his approval.”

    The KMP and Claim reiterated calls for the approval of a legislative  measure,   House Bill  1327 or the proposed creation of the “Genuine mall Coconut Farmers  Fund” as authored by  Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap. 

    The groups said thatunder HB 1327, small coconut farmers will be he primary beneficiaries of the fund “in the form of cash and other  social benefits including but not limited to pension benefits, medical and hospitalization benefits, maternity benefits, and educational assistanceincluding scholarships, among others.”

    “Cash distribution will be in the form of social benefits. This is not  a dole-out and a far cry from the  corruption-ridden conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the Aquino administration,”  Villanueva said.

    He noted  that under HB 1327, “socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives financed by the Coconut Farmers’ Fund shall primarily focus on livelihood programs and projects  meant  to provide additional incomes to  mall coconut farmers;small and medium-scale coconut enterprises,  marketing and trading mechanisms, inventions and innovations of machineries and equipment for the development of  high-quality coconutand improvement of local coconut production; and programs that would provide loan facilities  for mall coconut farmers.”

    “All coco levy funds acquired assets, investments, and corporation shall be turned over to  the Small Coconut Farmers Council. The SCFC shall directly manage  the operations of the CIIF-Oil  ills Group, 14  Holding Companies, United Coconut Planters’ Bank, Cocolife, and other corporations acquired through  the coco levy funds for the benefit of small coconut farmers,” he added. 

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