MINORITY Senators were outvoted Wednesday in giving coconut farmers representation in the coco levy measure’s Trust Fund Management Committee which will invest and manage the P76 billion in cash and dispose of the estimated P30 billion in other assets.
During the amendments period of the coconut farmers and industry trust fund measure, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan proposed to include in Trust Fund Management Committee one coconut farmer representative who will be chosen by the three coconut farmers representatives in the reconstituted Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Board from among themselves, as well as the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA) who chairs the PCA Board.
“Part of the reason why, at least for the explanation of the veto, was that there was six farmer representatives in the board. Now, we’re down to three. So binawasan na po nang napakarami ‘yung representation ng farmers tapos hindi pa sila ilalagay, wala pa silang boses doon sa privatization ng halos P30 bilyong halaga ng coco levy fund assets. I feel very strongly that even just one of the three representatives should be present in the trust fund management committee,” said Pangilinan.
The Trust Fund Management Committee in the current draft of the measure includes the Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, and the Department of Justice.
It shall be responsible for setting the investment strategy of the trust fund. Only Senators Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Pangilinan voted in favor of the inclusion of coconut farmers and DA from the trust fund management committee.
Fifteen other senators voted against the proposed amendment. Before putting the measure to a vote, Hontiveros manifested that coconut farmers should be involved in all domains of decision-making on the coco levy funds.
“While I do agree that that committee is a financial body, I would just like to manifest I would vote in favor of allowing coconut farmers in all domains of decision-making where the coco levy funds which was extracted from them is involved,” said Hontiveros.
The coco levy funds were proceeds of a forced tax imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos on the coconut industry between 1973 and 1982.
The coco levy fund in cash and assets are estimated to be worth over P105 billion.
Cronies of the late dictator used the collected levies to enrich themselves until the Supreme Court ruled to get the monies back from them and instructed the government to use them in trust in behalf of the coconut farmers.
For over 40 years, the money was trapped in court disputes.