By Ellson Quismorio
Consistent with President Rodrigo Duterte’s advocacy, Davao City 1st district Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles has strongly endorsed plenary approval of the proposed Act creating the Coconut Industry Trust Fund for the controversial coco levy fund.
“This is a very timely and vital measure that would sustain the development of the country’s coconut industry and ensure the welfare of Filipino coconut farmers,” said Nograles, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.
“After all, it was the coconut farmers who shouldered the burden of the coconut levy. Therefore, they must now reap the benefits from this fund,” the young third term solon stressed.
Nograles said the move is meant to address certain legal infirmities as declared by the Supreme Court (SC) that prevented proper usage of the fund.
He added that this should end insinuations that the Duterte administration is not keeping its commitment to finally return the coco levy fund to the coconut farmers.
House Bill (HB) no.5745 was approved by the Appropriations panel as the substitute bill to the original bills that sought to utilize the coconut levy fund.
Nograles authored HB no.62 together with his brother Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta PBA Partylist Rep. Jericho Nograles.
The particular bill batted for the creation of a “Coconut Industry Trust Fund” as well as the amendment of Republic Act (RA) 6260 or the Coconut Investment Act that created the coconut levy fund.
Nograles, a lawyer, added that the substitute measure has already been forwarded to the House Rules Committee for plenary debate as soon as possible, even as Duterte is set to deliver his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.
For coconut farmers
“The said coco levy should be used to benefit the coconut industry and the coconut farmers and not to be used for any other purposes as ruled by the Supreme Court,” he underscored.
In filing the original measure, Nograles noted that based on the SC ruling in “COCOFED, Et Al vs. Republic of the Philippines (GR No. 177857-58)” it declared that the coco levy funds and assets which consists primarily of the 753,848,312 shares of San Migueal Corporation and their accumulated dividends are owned by the government in trust for the coconut farmers.”
What the SC says
The High Court, however, raised the need to have an administrative mechanism to ensure that the coco levy funds are managed prudently and properly as intended by law.
” The SC is basically saying that okay, the coconut levy fund should be used exclusively for the benefit of all the coconut fields and the development of the coconut industry but there should be a clear mechanism by which this fund would be used prudently and properly,” Nograles said.
He noted that the SC ruling also did not provide specific guidelines for the management and use of the coco levy funds and this is the reason why Congress must pass a law which would address this loophole.
Nograles said that if passed into law, the proposal would constitute the coco levy funds and assets into a Coconut Industry Trust Fund and provide the administrative structure that will manage the trust funds and ensure that its use will benefit the coconut industry and the coco-farmers.
The coco levy fund started as 55-centavo-per-100-kilogram fee collected from each coconut farmer by the Marcos administration beginning in 1973.
The government said the fund would be used to stabilize the domestic price of coconut-based consumer goods like cooking oil.
Tags: coco levy, coconut farmers, Coconut Industry Trust Fund, Duterte's promise, House bill on judicious use of coco levy fund pushed, House of Representatives, Manila Bulletin, Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles