The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said the ultimate reason why President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the accompanying measure of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act is to allow him to have full and total discretion over the coco levy fund and assets and its budget allocation amounting to P10-billion annually.
“It is very obvious that Duterte wants the upper hand on the disposition and utilization of the coco levy fund and assets. He doesn’t want the reconstituted PCA Board to have sole responsibility on the coco levy fund and assets. In short, Duterte wants to covet the coco levy for his own interests,” according to Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP.
“Not content with the oversight functions of Congress, Malacanang and Duterte want to exercise discretion over the coco levy fund and assets. He is no different from Marcos who extorted the coco levy from small coconut farmers during Martial Law and previous administrations that deprived beneficiaries and coco farmers of the coco levy fund,” added Flores who noted that coconut farmers and their heirs have been waiting for the return of the coco levy fund for the past four decades.
In the vetoed bill, the reconstituted PCA Board will be composed of 15 members — 6 are farmer representatives (2 from each Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao) while 8 are from government agencies namely secretaries of the DA, DOF, DBM, DOST, DTI, presidents of Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines, and the administrator of the PCA.
Duterte’s veto message stated that “provisions of the bill do not reflect the ultimate goal of accelerating full utilization of the coco levy assets and funds for the benefit of our marginalized coconut farmers and the coconut industry” and “regrettably lacks vital safeguards to avoid the repetition of painful mistakes in the past.”
“Duterte is seemingly concerned with the welfare of coconut farmers but in truth, he wants the coco levy fund and assets for himself and his chosen allies. Worse, he could even remove the representation of coconut farmers in the PCA Board.”
The peasant leader said farmers would use this window to further assert the genuine return of the coco levy fund and assets through active mass campaigns. “The enacted Coconut Industry Development Act and the reconstituted PCA board did not reflect the original demands and sentiments of farmers for the creation of the Genuine Small Coconut Farmers Fund and Genuine Small Coconut Farmers Council that will be in charge of the management and utilization of the levy.”
Anakpawis Partylist file House Bills 1357 during the 16th Congress and House Bill 557 in the 16th Congress for the recovery of the coco levy fund.