Bicol coco farmers “takes over” Legaspi Oil Mill, ST contingent picket PCA, Mendiola
Small coconut farmers from Southern Luzon led by the claimants’ movement Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today staged coordinated protests against President Aquino’s Executive Orders 179 and 180 that seeks to privatize the coco levy funds and assets.
The Southern Tagalog contingent led by the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) picketed the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and trooped to Mendiola Bridge.
Coordinated protests in Bicol, on the other hand, were led by CLAIM-Bicol and the Bicol Coconut Planters Association Inc. (BCPAI) and staged a symbolic take-over of the Legazpi Oil Mills and picketed the PCA in Legaspi City, in Albay.
In Camarines Sur farmers held a protest at the United Coconut Planters Bank and PCA in Naga City, while Masbate coconut farmers also staged protest actions at the local PCA.
The peasant groups strongly opposed Aquino’s recently issued Executive Orders 179 and 180 directing the “transfer and reconveyance to the government and the subsequent privatization of all coco levy funds and assets” including but not limited to shares of stock in San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) Oil Mills, CIIF Holding Companies, the UCPB.
CLAIM national coordinator Nestor Villanueva said “small coconut farmers are fed up of Aquino’s plunder and deception. Aquino’s privatization and auction of the UCPB, CIIF Oil Mills, and other coco levy funded assets are an outright denial and deprivation of our just and legitimate claim over the coco levy funds.” “Our protest seeks to send a strong political message to Aquino that the CIIF-Oil Mills and the UCPB are not for sale,” Villanueva said adding that Aquino must also return small coconut farmers’ money amounting to an estimated P80 billion recovered from SMC that is now in the Bureau of Treasury. 72.2 percent of the UCPB was purchased by the government using coco levy funds while CIIF Oil Mills were also established using the small coconut farmers’ money.
“The coco levy funds and assets are owned by small coconut farmers and not by the government. We demand Aquino to withdraw his plunderous executive orders and give back our money,” Villanueva said.
CLAIM-Bicol coordinator Bert Autor said that “Aquino’s executive orders are obviously designed to once again plunder the coco levy funds.” “Aquino is racing against time. He wants to plunder the coco levy fund before the Filipino people forces him to resign or even before he steps down in 2016,” Autor said.
Autor warned that Aquino’s tremendous desire to plunder small coconut farmers’ money would hasten his imminent downfall.
KMP chair Rafael Mariano said Executive Orders 179 and 180 clearly demonstrate “the height of the President’s greed.” “EO 179 and 180 shows the haciendero President’s insatiable greed and penchant against farmers and proves that he cannot be trusted by small coconut farmers,” Mariano said.
He said “EO 179 and 180 strengthened state control over the funds by declaring that all coco levy funds belong to the government which did not contribute a single cent to the funds.”
“Aquino deceived, deprived, and denied small coconut farmers of their just and legitimate claim over hundreds of billions of pesos worth of coco levy fund and assets. Aquino’s ouster from power is in order,” the peasant said. The KMP and CLAIM insist that “the oil mills, the UCPB, and the SMC shares are owned by small coconut farmers” and that “Aquino has no legal and moral authority to sell these coco levy funded corporations and assets.”
“It is therefore just and legitimate to escalate direct actions to reclaim the coco levy funds and assets and thwart Aquino’s attempt to plunder the funds anew,” the KMP and CLAIM said.