UCPB sale still on

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The government has not given up on the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and its proposed sale back to the private sector, according to senior officials.

Officials said the UCPB, which continues to enjoy government support as one of its depositary banks, will be sold under the good-bank, bad-bank model in which the commercially viable aspects of the enterprise will be sold off likely under a bidding process.

No particular timeline was cited but previously, no less than Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said government support for UCPB will end in December this year.

The time bound nature of government support for the lender makes imperative that it be sold quickly but at a price advantageous to the government as coconut levy funds worth P74.3 billion have been invested as equity in the lender.

Dominguez has since told financial reporters the government support would not be extended beyond December this year.

He also said government has a particular sale number in mind without the capital support UCPB enjoys at the moment.

This developed even as legislators on Friday said the Sandiganbayan decision affirming the public nature of the coco levy funds must be distributed to the coconut farmers who collectively own them.

That decision lifts from an earlier Supreme Court stance that the assets of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund worth P74.3 billiion belongs to the government and therefore must be given back to the coconut farmers.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Friday welcomed this development and urged that the 2014 legal decision be implemented quickly to benefit the coconut farmers.

Hontiveros said colleagues in the Senate have since resisted the claims on the CIIF funds by the UCPB itself and the Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corp (Cocolife) who each sought to benefit from the levy fund.

“The decision should clear the way for legislation and distribute the levy to the farmers,” she said.

“I voted against the Senate version of the coco levy bill because it was not constructed as a trust fund like the farmers wanted,” Hontiveros added.

This relates to the bicameral approval of the bill creating a P100-billion coco levy trust fund with a lifespan of 25 years to benefit some 3.5 million farmers.

Sen. Cynthia Villar said the trust fund will be invested in Treasury bills but managed by the Philippine Coconut Authority.

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