Farmers’ groups want GOCC to manage Coco Levy Funds

FARMER leaders belonging to the Confederation of Coconut Farmers’ Organizations of the Philippines (CONFED) held a one-day consultation themed “Coco Levy funds…Galing sa Magniniyog, Para sa Magniniyog” at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City, Mar. 23, 2017.

The farmers came from the provinces of Iloilo, Antique, Aklan, Negros Occidental, Capiz, and Guimaras.

Led by CONFED Regional Chair Perlito Echeche, they discussed an aide memoir earlier submitted to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III regarding the control and utilization of the coconut levy funds and assets which the Supreme Court had declared in January 2012 as belonging to the government for the benefit of all the coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.

Also present at the regional confab as resource persons were CONFED national leaders Efren Villasenor, Oscar Solidor, Datu Mao Andong and Ka Charlie Avila.

The coco levy funds are now deposited in escrow with the Bureau of the Treasury and amount to more than P70 billion in cash while the total coco levy assets may, depending on market price valuation, is more than P200 billion.

After the SC action that defined with finality the true nature of the funds as being trust-owned by the government with all the coconut farmers as beneficial owners, Congress is now crafting a law on its control and disposition.

CONFED in Iloilo resolved in the discussion to support the version filed in the House by Reps. Carlo and Koko Nograles, Mikey Romero and Celso Lobregat

They noted that although there seems to be unanimity in both chambers as to the establishment of a Coconut Industry Trust Fund, the CONFED strongly favors the Nograles-Romero-Lobregat version because it provides for a management corporation or a government-owned and controlled corporation rather than a mere committee to handle the management of the trust fund.

A public trust fund of the magnitude of the coconut levy funds and assets will surely need not a mere committee [Pangilinan and Garin versions] but a full-fledged government-owned corporation [Nograles et al version] that has the requisite characteristics of stability, flexibility, autonomy, transparency, accountability and therefore the capacity for good and effective governance – the conference unanimously agreed.

A mere committee can never exhibit the properties of such a corporation but can easily be subject to the politics and vagaries of partisan desire and approval.

A new law must precisely seek to give teeth to the decision of the Supreme Court that the coconut levy funds and assets are to be used exclusively for the development of the coconut industry to the benefit of all the coconut farmers.

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