Undeterred by SC decision, UCPB to pursue SMC claims
The United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) yesterday said it will continue to pursue its claim on some of the disputed holdings in San Miguel Corp. (SMC) which had nothing to do with the controversial coco levy funds.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s (SC) recent dismissal of the UCPB and its insurance unit, Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corp.’s (Cocolife) claims in SMC, the bank said it will continue to “exhaust all possible legal remedies” to acquire the shares which it purchased with its own bank funds to invest in the oil mills and SMC shares.
“UCPB would like to clarify that it is not claiming any part of the coco levy funds or assets,” it said in a statement on Thursday. “(UCPB) respectfully recognizes that these are governmentowned. Likewise, it is not claiming the investments that the bank made as administrator of the CIIF (Coconut Industry Investment Fund). Instead, it is merely protecting its own shareholders, including the majority government shareholder, and preserving bank assets.”
The Supreme Court ordered the dismissal of UCPB’s petition for declaratory relief or request for a legal clarification on UCPB's rights to its minority shares of stock in the CIIF Oil Mills and indirectly in an 11 percent portion of the sequestered SMC shares which were ruled to be owned by the government for the benefit of coconut farmers and the development of the coco industry.
“UCPB would like to reiterate that it is not after any portion of the coco levy funds that were ruled by the government for the benefit of coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry,” said the bank.
UCPB commented that it has administered the coco levy funds and increased it to 65.48 billion from only 2.57 billion in 1977 for the “benefit of the coconut farmers.”
In compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision that the funds are legally owned by the government for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the coconut industry, the funds were remitted in two tranches in October 2012 and June 2015 amounting to 70 billion to the Bureau of Treasury for its safekeeping. “Thus, it would be out of character for the bank to lay claim on these funds now when UCPB dutifully grew the funds in its role as administrator, not as owner of the funds,” it argued.
The bank added that the UCPBCIIF Finance and Development Corp. has provided financing worth 6.6 billion for cooperatives and non-profit organizations supporting coconut farmers and farm workers, livelihood and income-generating activities of coconut farmers’ wives and dependents, and entrepreneurial projects that use coconut products and derivatives. An additional 1.4 billion was extended as insurance coverage.
The UCPB-CIIF Foundation has also supported the education of 2,400 children of coconut farmers through scholarship grants that has reached a total of 175.84 million, said UCPB.
“UCPB will not do anything detrimental to the coconut farmers sector,” UCPB insisted. “(We) only wish to assert the bank’s position that, aside from the coco levy funds used to acquire a controlling interest in the oil mills and SMC shares, it also used its own corporate funds to invest in a minority interest in the same oil mills and SMC shares. In doing so, it is fulfilling its fiduciary duty to, and protecting the interests of, its stakeholders, including the coconut farmers and the government.”