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Bong Go commends PRRD for signing coco levy trust fund law; cites crucial role of coconut industry in economic growth and recovery

February 28, 2021 - Sunday 2:02 PM by MDM

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Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go commended President Rodrigo Duterte for signing into law a measure he co-authored which provides for the utilization of the Coco Levy Fund to benefit the country’s coconut farmers.

“I commend the President for signing this law that would benefit and promote the welfare of our less fortunate coconut farmers,” Go said.

“Bilang isa sa mga malalaking producers ng coconut sa mundo, napakahalaga po ng coconut industry sa ating bansa. Napakarami sa ating mga magsasaka ang nakikinabang at nakasalalay ang pamumuhay sa industriyang ito. Kaya naman po nagagalak tayo na sa wakas ay may batas na na magsusulong ng kanilang mga karapatan at kapakanan,” he added.

The President signed Republic Act No. 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act on Friday, February 26. Under the law, the Philippine Coconut Authority is tasked to craft the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan which will “set the directions and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the coconut industry within 50 years.”

The law also mandates the Bureau of Treasury to transmit PhP10 billion to the trust fund in the first year; PhP10 billion in the second year; PhP15 billion in the third year; PhP15 billion in the fourth year; and PhP25 billion during the fifth year.

Around PhP5 billion from the coco levy trust fund will be utilized for the plans and programs of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, including the training of coconut farmers and their families, planting and replanting of hybrid coconut seedlings, among others.

The law also strengthens the PCA to ensure the implementation of the plan.

Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier welcomed and supported the measure, saying that the “decades-long awaited legislative measure will greatly help rehabilitate and modernize the country’s coconut industry.”

Dar added that the law will help unleash the potential of the Philippine coconut industry by paving the way to further increase the country’s export revenues from the coconut agriculture sector.

During a Senate public hearing on the measure in September last year, Go, who co-authored the measure, had earlier asked its sponsor, Senator Cynthia Villar, as to the number of coconut farmers who will benefit from the measure. Villar responded, saying that the latest figure in 2017 is 2.4 million.

Villar also mentioned that the intended beneficiaries came from 67 coconut producing provinces, five cities and 1,346 towns in the Philippines.

Go then sought assurance that the initial funding for the measure is enough to be able to uplift less fortunate coconut farmers.

President Duterte vetoed in 2019 an earlier version of the measure approved during the 17th Congress, citing the lack of “vital safeguards” in a letter addressed to Congress.

Duterte explained that establishing an "effectively perpetual" trust fund would violate Article IV Section 29(3) of the 1987 Constitution. 

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 of the Philippines.

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

The Trust Fund seeks to establish facilities for the coconut industry and empower coconut farmers' cooperatives and organizations. It will also be utilized for farm improvement, scholarship grants, and health and medical programs for members of the industry.

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