Farmers reiterate 7-point proposal on coco levy fund
The peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the claimants’ movement Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) today welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to his Cabinet and legal team “to initiate moves to ensure the release of the coco levy fund to farmers” and urged the incoming president to “consider the direct cash distribution of the coco levy money to small coconut farmers and the creation of a genuine small coconut farmers’ fund.”
“The direct return of the multi-billion coconut levy fund to small coconut farmers is long overdue. Duterte’s pronouncement is a welcome development for small coconut farmers who continue to struggle for more than four decades now to recover the multibillion coco levy fund plundered by the Marcos dictatorship,” says KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.
“We have not forgotten incoming President Duterte’s promise to return the coco levy fund to small coconut farmers within the first 100 days of his administration. We are pleased that Duterte is working to put action into his words,” Flores said.
Flores said Duterte’s legal team should consider the long-standing demand and national clamor for the “direct cash distribution of the fund to small coconut farmers and utilization of the fund for the genuine development of the local coconut industry.”
“We strongly call for the immediate and direct distribution of the coco levy funds to small coconut farmers through social benefits and in the form of cash. This legitimate and just demand addresses the worsening poverty and hunger suffered by small coconut farmers,” says CLAIM-Quezon coordinator Arvin Borromeo.
The immediate cash distribution of the coco levy funds to small coconut farmers was first floated by the late Senator Joker Arroyo in April 2012.
“There is no pronouncement from the government that the farmers would be cash recipients of the court decision. They would be incidental beneficiaries when the coconut industry is revived,” Arroyo said. “The farmers parted with hard-earned cash, but they would not be given cash in return; they would be given benefits in kind, tools, seedlings, credit facilities, etc. The irony of it all is that the principal beneficiaries, the government and the industry, had not contributed to the coco levy fund.”
The KMP and CLAIM are also pushing for the creation of a “Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund” that shall not be part of the general funds of the national government and shall be used exclusively for the benefit of genuine small coconut farmers.”
Under a Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund, the entire coco levy fund and assets, including but not limited to the United Coconut Planters’ Bank and coco levy fund-acquired coconut oil mills, will be administered, utilized and used for the benefits of small coconut farmers and the genuine development of the coconut industry in support of national industrialization.
Aside from direct cash distribution of the coco levy money to small coconut farmers, CLAIM and KMP said it is also imperative that the incoming Duterte administration also recover the “20 percent block of coco levy fund shares controlled by Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr. “Cojuangco must also be held accountable for the plunder of the funds, says Flores.
Flores said small coconut farmers across the country have already decided on a seven-point proposal on the return and distribution of the coco levy funds as he urged Duterte’s legal team to “intently consider the concrete proposals by small coconut farmers.”
The 7-point proposal of Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin are the following:
- Creation of a Small Coconut Farmers’ Council (SCFC) to directly manage and administer the recovered coco levy.
- Creation of a Coconut Farmers’ Fund to comprise the total amount of the coco levy that formed part of the various funds created for the utilization of the coco levy for various purposes including but not limited to the Coconut Investment Fund (CIF), the Coconut Consumers’ Stabilization Fund (CCSF), Coconut Industry Development Fund (CIDF), the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF), the Coconut Industry Stabilization Fund (CISF), the Coconut Reserve Fund (CRF), and the increment from any interest, earnings, profits, and income from the investments made using these funds, plus the assets acquired, established and/or funded by the coco levy.
- Small coconut farmers should be the primary beneficiaries of the fund in the form of cash and other social benefits including but not limited to pension benefits, medical and hospitalization benefits, maternity benefits, and educational assistance including scholarships.
- Socio-economic programs and projects of small coconut farmers through their recognized organizations/cooperatives shall be financed by the recovered coco levy funds and assets, and the shares and dividends from the investments made from coco levy including assets and corporations (CIIF-Oil Mills Group, 14 Holding Companies, United Coconut Planters’ Bank, Cocolife, etc.).
- Socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives financed by the Coconut Farmers’ Fund shall primarily focus on livelihood programs and projects meant to provide additional incomes to small coconut farmers; small and medium-scale coconut enterprises, marketing and trading mechanisms, inventions and innovations of machineries and equipment for the development of high-quality coconut and improvement of local coconut production;
- All coco levy funds acquired assets, investments, and corporation shall be turned over to the Small Coconut Farmers Council. The SCFC shall directly manage the operations of the CIIF-Oil Mills Group, 14 Holding Companies, United Coconut Planters’ Bank, Cocolife, and other corporations acquired through the coco levy funds for the benefit of small coconut farmers.
- Small coconut farmers’ organizations in coordination with local government units (LGUs) would facilitate the registration process. Small coconut farmers’ organizations shall ensure that genuine small coconut farmers will register. ###