Coco levy fund row settlement seen to boost coconut industry

MANILA, -- The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) expects an increase in coconut yield and doubling exports in the next few years amid plan of a group of coconut farmer's organizations to withdraw its petition before the Supreme Court (SC) that resulted in a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the utilization of PHP75-billion coco levy funds.

"I am extremely happy for the coco farmers and the industry that it serves with the development that one of the seemingly major stumbling block to the early disposition of coco levy fund is hopefully and finally resolved with the CONFED (Coconut Farmer's Organizations of the Philippines) declaration of withdrawal of the TRO," said PCA Administrator Billy Andal.

Andal said the group is gearing up to withdraw the petition before the SC next week.

"With these development, President Rodrigo Duterte can now dispose without much legal impediment considering that he promised the electorate, the farmers in particular, that he will release the coco levy fund in 30 days," he added.

Andal stressed that CONFED believes in the Duterte administration and that the PCA has the legal mandate to manage the coco funds as part of its job to oversee the coconut industry.

"We, in CONFED, believe that we have at last a government that means business for the benefit of coconut farmers and the development of the industry. We are willing to withdraw our Petition before the Court to give PCA a freer hand in governance," said CONFED Executive Director Spokesperson Ka Charlie Avila.

The CONFED is the unified group of coconut farmer's organizations nationwide and their many allied farmers' groups representing all together more than 95 percent of the organized coconut farmers sector in the country.

"We, the coconut farmers, believe that the coconut industry is one of the major industries that support the national economy. It is the State's concern to make it strong and secure source not only of the livelihood of a significant segment of the population, but also export earnings the sustained growth of which is one of the imperatives of economic stability," said CONFED Chairman Efren Villasenor.

Andal said they will directly pay coconut farmers who could show receipts that they paid levy.

For those without receipts, he added that members of farmer associations in their respective areas will benefit as the coco levy funds will finance their coco enterprise development projects.

The PCA chief expects registered coconut farmers nationwide reaching 1.9 million by end of February.

The coco levy funds were taxes paid by coconut farmers from 1973 to 1982.

It can be recalled that the SC issued a TRO that prevents the effectivity and implementation of two executive issuances by President Benigno Aquino relevant to the use of the assets.

The TRO in favor of CONFED orders the implementation of Executive Order Nos. 179 (Providing the Administrative Guidelines for the Inventory and Privatization of Coco Levy Assets) and 180 (Providing the Administrative Guidelines for the Reconveyance and Utilization of Coco Levy Assets for the Benefit of the Coconut Farmers and the Development of the Coconut Industry) both issued on March 18, 2015. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency