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New bill in support of coconut farmers gets Go’s backing




A farmer removes the husks from newly harvested coconuts. Photograph by Ted Aljibe for AFP

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go wants to ensure that farmers, especially the poorest, will benefit from the coconut levy once the bill creating a fund to support the sector is passed into law.

Go had asked to be a co-author of the revamped Coconut Levy Fund bill, an earlier version of which was vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In his interpellation of Senator Cynthia Villar who sponsored the measure, Go asked how many coconut farmers will benefit from the fund.

“How will we ensure that the benefits of coco levy fund will redound to our less fortunate farmers? Importante masiguro natin na ang mga naghihirap na magsasaka ang makikinabang,” added Go.

Villar responded that the latest figure in 2017 was at 2.4 million. She added that the intended beneficiaries came from 67 coconut producing provinces, five cities and 1,346 towns in the Philippines.

While there are only 1,550 towns in the Philippines, the beneficiaries came from 1,346 of those towns, Villar pointed out.

The vetoed bill proposed seed money of P10 billion while the present measure limited the initial budget to P5 billion, Villar said.

In his veto, the President pointed out that establishing an “effectively perpetual” trust fund would violate Article IV Section 29(3) of the 1987 Constitution.

According to the section, money collected from the tax levied for a special purpose shall be treated as a special fund and paid out for such purpose only.

In the new bill, the management and disbursement of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund will be implemented by the PCA based on the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan and as approved by the President.

The said plan will also lay out the rehabilitation of the industry in the next 99 years, the suggested lifespan of the Trust Fund.