The Philippine Star

House vows P100-B trust fund for coco farm­ers

- By EDU PUNAY Agriculture · Industries · Congress of the United States · Alan Peter Cayetano · Taguig · Pateros, Metro Manila · Ozamiz

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has vowed to pass be­fore year-end the mea­sure seek­ing to cre­ate a P100-bil­lion trust fund for the use of farm­ers in the co­conut in­dus­try, which Pres­i­dent Duterte pri­or­i­tized but had pre­vi­ously ve­toed.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said nec­es­sary re­fine­ment in the mea­sure would be made by the Lower House when it re­sumes ses­sion next month to avoid a third veto from the Pres­i­dent and for its im­ple­men­ta­tion next year.

“Be­fore the end of the year, I’m ex­pect­ing the bill on coco levy funds to be passed by Congress. That’s about P100 bil­lion in funds that will ben­e­fit our coco farm­ers,” he re­vealed in an in­ter­view in Oza­miz City.

Cayetano filed House Bill 10 or the Co­conut Farm­ers Trust Fund Act last July, but the mea­sure has not yet ad­vanced be­cause Congress pri­or­i­tized the pro­posed P4.1-tril­lion na­tional bud­get for 2020 and other pri­or­ity eco­nomic mea­sures dur­ing the first quar­ter of this 18th Congress.

The House leader cited the need to pass the mea­sure to ad­dress the needs of some 3.5 mil­lion co­conut farm­ers in the coun­try.

“This is re­ally a se­ri­ous prob­lem we need to ad­dress seven out of 10 of our poor­est farm­ers are co­conut farm­ers who are now forced to take on ex­tra jobs as tri­cy­cle driv­ers or fac­tory work­ers to make ends meet for their fam­i­lies. So def­i­nitely we need to re­vive our co­conut in­dus­try,” the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Taguig-Pateros stressed.

Cayetano, un­der whose lead­er­ship the House was able to pass a bud­get bill in record time of just one month, ex­plained that the co­conut in­dus­try has so much po­ten­tial but needs gov­ern­ment sup­port.

“There are many prod­ucts we can pro­duce from the in­dus­try - coco wa­ter, vir­gin co­conut oil and coco sugar but if we don’t pour money into this rel­a­tively new in­dus­try, we can­not en­tice the pri­vate sec­tor to in­vest also,” he ex­plained.

The Speaker has as­sured that co­conut in­dus­try and agri­cul­ture sec­tor in gen­eral would get more fund­ing next year un­der the 2020 bud­get.

His bill has been re­ferred to the com­mit­tee on agri­cul­ture and food, which is ex­pected to start de­lib­er­at­ing on the mea­sure next month.

Deputy Speaker and 1-Pac­man party-list Rep. Mi­kee Romero agreed with Cayetano on the need to pri­or­i­tize this mea­sure.

“Our farm­ers can ex­pect our full sup­port in this 18th Congress to ad­dress their needs and al­le­vi­ate them from poverty. Pro­vid­ing a trust fund that would sup­port and em­power our coco farm­ers will ben­e­fit not only the in­dus­try but the coun­try’s econ­omy in the long run,” the econ­o­mist-law­maker ex­plained to The STAR.

Romero, head of the partylist bloc, fur­ther as­sured that the bill will breeze through the lower house since it was al­ready passed on fi­nal read­ing in the pre­vi­ous Congress.

He cited Rule 10 Sec­tion 48 of the House that al­lows com­mit­tees to dis­pose pri­or­ity mea­sures al­ready filed and ap­proved on third read­ing in the im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing Congress.

To re­call, the 17th Congress passed the mea­sure then num­bered HB 9197.

But last Fe­bru­ary, Duterte ve­toed the pri­or­ity bill which he said con­tained pro­vi­sions that vi­o­lated the Con­sti­tu­tion.

It was the sec­ond time that the Pres­i­dent ex­er­cised his power to veto a bill in its en­tirety. He had ear­lier ve­toed a re­lated bill that sought to strengthen the PCA, as it lacked the proper safe­guards against cor­rup­tion.

The mea­sure cre­ates a Co­conut Farm­ers and In­dus­try Devel­op­ment Trust Fund, con­sist­ing of the Trust Prin­ci­pal and the Trust In­come to be main­tained for a pe­riod of 30 years or un­til the fund is fully uti­lized.

It will con­sol­i­date all as­sets and ben­e­fits em­a­nat­ing from the co­conut levy and cre­ate a trust fund for the ex­clu­sive ben­e­fit of co­conut farm­ers and farm work­ers as em­bod­ied in the Co­conut Farm­ers Devel­op­ment Fund.

The pro­posed Trust Fund will be de­posited in the Bureau of Trea­sury which shall ac­count for it in a man­ner pro­vided by the co­conut Farm­ers and In­dus­try Devel­op­ment Trust Fund Com­mit­tee un­der the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent.

A P10-bil­lion ini­tial trust prin­ci­pal shall be al­lo­cated to as “jump­start fund” to ac­cel­er­ate the devel­op­ment of the in­dus­try.

The bill also man­dates an an­nual al­lo­ca­tion of at least P5 bil­lion to be re­leased for the pro­grams and projects for the ben­e­fit of co­conut farm­ers and work­ers.

An ad­hoc com­mit­tee will also be cre­ated to pre­pare ev­ery five years a medium-term plan of pro­grams, ac­tiv­i­ties, and projects which will be funded out of the Trust Fund. The plan will be known as the Co­conut Farm­ers and In­dus­try Devel­op­ment Plan.

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