The Philippine Coconut Authority was proposed to become a body similar to the anomalous Road Board, which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the bill restructuring the PCA, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Veto by the President of the legislative measure is a reflection of the principled stand of this administration in promoting good governance and public accountability
The President wanted to be certain the multibillion-peso coconut levy funds will not be squandered as was the case in the Road Board that handles the multibillion-peso Motor Vehicle User’s Charge.
Under the proposed measure, the reconstituted and strengthened PCA will handle the P100-billion coco levy fund.
Mr. Duterte wanted Congress to redraft the bill and incorporate more “safeguards to protect the taxpayers’ money” in it, Panelo said.
Panelo added the PCA, which is tasked to oversee the handling of the coco levy fund, was “set up like the Road Board” which the Chief Executive ordered abolished due to allegations of corruption.
The bill entitled “An Act to Further Strengthen the Philippine Coconut Authority,” amending Presidential Decree 1468 or the Revised Coconut Industry Code, according to the Palace, is vulnerable to corruption and therefore Congress must go back to the drawing board to improve the measure.
Another pork mill
“While the President recognizes and commends the efforts of both chambers of Congress for their zealousness and selflessness in passing the measure, it is therefore with a heavy heart that he exercises his veto power pursuant to Article 6, Section 27, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution over the said bill, with the thought and confidence that the lawmakers can re-craft one that will provide more safeguards to protect the taxpayers’ money and shield the levy funds from irregular and unlawful use, as well as guarantee its proper management,” Panelo said.
“The veto by the President of the legislative measure is a reflection of the principled stand of this administration in promoting good governance and public accountability,” Panelo said.
According to the bill, Congress has the sole oversight functions over a revamped PCA.
Malacañang said the Executive branch must also have a say since the agency is in charge of “P10-billion in annual appropriation for the development of an industry” making it “susceptible to corruption akin to creating pork barrel funds.”
A reconstituted PCA is given various functions, including but not limited to the sale, disposition or dissolution of coco levy assets without checks and balances, Panelo added.
“Such condition will diminish the ability of the Department of Justice, through the Office of the Solicitor-General in coordination with the Presidential Commission on Good Government, to act on cases relating to coco levy assets,” he added.
Public money put at risk
The PCA board’s composition in the bill also puts taxpayers’ money in the hands of private individuals, Panelo added.
In the vetoed measure, eight government officials and seven persons from the private sector, including six coconut farmer representatives and one coconut industry representative, shall comprise the 15-member PCA board.
But the Palace does not see this as enough representation from the government’s side.
“A receipt of P10 billion by the board from taxpayers’ money therefore translates to permitting private persons to influence the disbursement of public funds,” Panelo said.
The bill revamping the PCA is relative to the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act, an enrolled bill that will lapse into law on 17 February.
It seeks to ensure that the coconut farmers would directly receive the billions of pesos worth of coco levy funds and assets.
The PCA bill is one of the priority bills pushed by Duterte.