Duterte, Cayetano vow to distribute coco levy funds to farmers

Mar. 13, 2016


PDP-Laban presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. (File photo)

TAGUM CITY—In what could be seen as sign of hope, presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte and his running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, vowed over the weekend to distribute the P80-billion coco levy funds to small coconut farmers in just one month should they win in the upcoming May elections.

Duterte, in a meeting with farmers at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna, pointed out that the disposition of the fund is long overdue.

“The Supreme Court has said that the money belongs to the people. Matagal na yan. By this pronouncement, it should have been given to the rightful owners,” said Duterte in a statement on Saturday, March 12.

He emphasized that the money must be immediately distributed to coconut farmers and growers.

‘Political will needed’

“All it takes is political will. The Supreme Court already decided to return the fund to the farmers. Thus, if elected, in just the first month of our term, Alan and I will immediately give the fund back to the coconut farmers. Failure to do so is tantamount to Estafa,” Duterte said.

When pressed to comment about the stance of his presidential rival Senator Grace Poe and her running mate, Senator Francis Escudero on the Coco Levy fund issue, the Davao City Mayor said they will protect the interest of the coconut farmers and growers.

“It’s their problem. As far as I’m concerned, Alan and I will only protect the interest and welfare of the coconut farmers. If other candidates prefer to protect the big and powerful, we, on the other hand, will protect the small and the weak,” Duterte said.

Cayetano hits Poe-Escudero tandem

Duterte’s running mate, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, on the other hand, criticized both Poe’s and Escudero’s stance on the issue, saying they “lack knowledge and courage.”

Cayetano claims it was “grossly erroneous” for Poe to absolve certain quarters while pointing out that the two executive orders issued by the President Benigno Aquino on 2015 which will execute the distribution of the funds were halted because of a petition filed by the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation (COCOFED), which he claims as an alleged “dummy” organization.

“What are needed in this issue are a brave solution and fast action,” Cayetano said. “There’s no place for the protector of the rich or a weak leadership.”

Cayetano also said that Duterte and him will push for bold solutions and this included “reversing the administration’s privatization plan and refashioning the coconut levy assets to consolidate the benefits due to coconut farmers.”

According to Duterte’s camp, around 25 percent or 3 million hectares of the country’s 12 million hectare agriculture lands are devoted to coconut.

There are around 3.5 million coconut farmers across the country today—or close to 10 percent of the total 40 million labor force, said Peter Laviña, spokesperson of Duterte.

‘Return of coco levy funds fair and just’

“Our position is that we need to return coco levy funds to the rightful owners as it is only fair and just,” Laviña said.

The coconut industry, Laviña said, is among the top five net foreign exchange earners, with an average of $760M per year. He further noted that the country contributes around 59 percent share in world coconut exports.

“We need to have a new vision and program for the revival of the coconut industry to bring equitable wealth creation, including restructuring Philippine Coconut Authority to also focus on other vegetable oil crops such as oil palm as complementary to coconut,” Laviña said. (davaotoday.com)

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