Duterte to return coco levy to farmers

Asia's Tech News Daily

SEN. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go commended President Rodrigo Duterte for fulfilling his campaign promise to return the coconut levy fund to the nation’s coconut farmers during a meeting by the Joint National and Regional Task Forces on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City, Quezon province on Thursday.

During the meeting, President Duterte, Go and other officials witnessed the handover of a copy of Republic Act 11524, or the “Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act,” which provides for the creation of a trust fund for the country’s coconut industry and its workers.

The funds were recovered by the government nearly 10 years ago after decades of litigation.

“Napakatagal hinintay ito ng ating mga coconut farmers. Napakaraming administrasyon ang nagdaan at ngayon lang ito napirmahan. Patunay ito sa malasakit ni Tatay Digong sa ating mga magsasaka (The coconut farmers waited for so long. Several administrations passed and it was signed only now. This is proof that Tatay Digong (Duterte) cares for our farmers),” according to Go, who served as a co-author of the law in the Senate.

“Malaki ang maitutulong nito sa tuluy-tuloy na paglago ng coconut industry ng Pilipinas na isa sa pinakamalaki sa mundo. Maiaangat din nito ang kalidad ng produksyon at pamumuhay ng ating mga magsasaka. Patuloy sana natin suportahan ang ating mga magsasaka at tulungan natin silang malampasan ang paghihirap na dulot ng pandemya dahil ang sektor na ito ang bubuhay sa ating bansa (This is a big help for the growth of the coconut industry of the Philippines that is one of the biggest in the world. It will also improve the quality of the production and the livelihood of the farmers. Let us continue supporting our farmers and help them overcome the hardship brought by the pandemic),” the senator said.

Go participated in deliberations of the proposed measure in the Senate plenary. The bill was finally passed and signed by the President on February 26.

The new law specifically directs the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to craft the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, which will set the overall direction and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the industry within 50 years.

Programs under the plan will cover such subject areas as development of hybrid coconut seed farms; training and capacity building; scholarships; research, marketing and promotion; crop insurance; empowerment of coconut farmer organization and their cooperatives; credit programs; infrastructure development; and a health and medical program for farmers and their families.

To finance the programs and projects to be implemented, the law mandates the Bureau of the Treasury to transfer P10 billion to the trust fund in the first year; P10 billion in the second year; P15 billion in the third year; P15 billion in the fourth year; and P25 billion in the fifth year.

The PCA is also reconstituted to ensure the participation of the coconut farmers in the crafting and implementation of the plan. The PCA board membership is amended to be composed of the Secretaries of Agriculture, Finance, Budget and Management, Science and Technology and Trade and Industry; PCA administrator; and three members of the coconut farmers sector to represent Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

A Trust Fund Management Committee will also be created to set investment priorities and annual allocations of the trust fund and approve financial requirements of the designated disposition entities, which, among others, refer to the Land Bank of the Philippines, Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System.

As the country continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, Go once more called on the Department of Agriculture to increase access to training and financing opportunities for the agricultural workforce to address unemployment, poverty and unequal economic growth.

The meeting was also attended by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Department of Public Works and Highways Acting Secretary Roger Mercado, Quezon Second District Rep. David Suarez, Quezon Gov. Danilo Suarez and Sariaya Mayor Marcelo Gayeta, among others.

Earlier that day, Go also joined President Duterte in witnessing the inauguration of the Sariaya By-Pass Road in the same city. Running an estimated 7.4 kilometers, the road project begins at the Manila South Road-Daang Maharlika Road and ends at the Quezon Eco-Tourism Road.

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