Coco levy trust fund bill’s passage sought

MANILA-- The House committee on appropriations has endorsed for plenary approval a proposal seeking to convert the assets of the coconut levy into a trust fund for the benefit of coconut farmers nationwide.

In a statement on Sunday, committee chair and Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles cited the need to create a trust fund from coconut levy for the development of the farmers and the industry.

Nograles added that an enabling law should be passed to fulfill one of the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte to return the multi-billion peso coco levy collected from coconut farmers during the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

House Bill 5745, or the proposed "Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Act", has been approved by the committee on agriculture and food and the committee on appropriations. The bill is currently pending before the House committee on rules to schedule it for plenary debates.

"This is a very timely and vital measure that would sustain the development of the country's coconut industry and ensure the welfare of Filipino coconut farmers, Nograles said.

"After all, it was the coconut farmers who shouldered the burden of the coconut levy. Therefore, they must now reap the benefits from this fund," he added.

Nograles, a principal author of the bill, said the Supreme Court declared that the coconut levy fund is government-owned to be used solely for the benefit of coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.

Nograles noted that the high court also stressed the need to have an administrative mechanism to ensure that the coco levy funds are managed prudently.

"The SC is basically saying that okay, the coconut levy fund should be used exclusively for the benefit of all the coconut fields and the development of the coconut industry but there should be a clear mechanism by which this fund would be used prudently and properly," Nograles said.

The lawmaker said the proposal would constitute the coco-levy funds and assets into a Coconut Farmer and Industry Trust Fund and provide the administrative structure that will manage the trust funds and ensure that its use will benefit the coconut industry and the coco-farmers.

Among the salient features of HB 5745 include: establishing a Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund; depositing the trust fund to the Bureau of Treasury; providing that PHP10 billion of the initial trust principal be used within two years from the approval of the "Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan" by the President of the Philippines:

The bill also seeks the creation of a trust fund committee, under the Office of the President, which shall monitor the implementation of the plan and approve disbursements out of the trust fund.

Source: Philippines News Agency