The House committee on agriculture and food has passed a substitute bill which seeks to convert the assets of the coconut levy into a trust fund for the benefit of coconut farmers nationwide.
The committee approved the proposed “An Act Establishing the Coconut Farmers And Industry Development Trust Fund And Providing For Its Management And Utilization.”
Rep. Jose Panganiban, Jr. (Party-list, ANAC-IP), committee chairman and one of the authors of the bill, said the Supreme Court has declared in 2012 that the coconut levy fund is government-owned to be used solely for the benefit of coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.
The bill provides that the State shall adopt necessary measures to immediately address the serious problems besetting the coconut industry and protect the socio-economic well-being of coconut farmers, provided that any measure or program undertaken in accordance with the Act shall only be deemed complementary to and shall not be a replacement for existing and potential coconut development programs already conducted by other agencies.
Towards this end, the benefits due to coconut farmers, especially the poor and the marginalized under various statutes shall be consolidated and their delivery expedited.
Among the salient features of the bill are: (1) It establishes the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund; (2) It provides that the Trust Fund be deposited in the Bureau of Treasury; (3) It provides for the P10 billion of the initial trust principal to be used within two years from the approval of the “Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan” by the President of the Philippines.
The bill also provides for the creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee, under the Office of the President, which shall monitor the implementation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan and approve disbursements out of the Trust Fund.
The Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund, referred to as the Trust Fund, shall consist of the Trust Principal and the Trust Income. No portion of the Trust Fund shall accrue to the general fund of the National Government. It shall be capitalized, managed, utilized and accounted for in the manner provided in the Act.
The Trust Fund shall be used exclusively for the ultimate benefit of coconut farmers and farm workers as embodied in the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan prepared pursuant to Section 21 hereof.
All assets and/or properties derived from all coconut levy recovered assets; and all dividends, interest earnings and incomes that are available upon the effectivity of the Act shall form part of the initial capital of the Trust Fund.
The Trust Fund shall thereafter be augmented with all proceeds of privatization/disposition of the Coconut Levy Assets remitted directly thereto by the PMO in accordance with the Act, including any and all forms of income, interests, earnings, yields, or any monetary benefit derived therefrom prior to the privatization/disposition of these coconut levy assets.
In order to ensure the enduring character of the Trust Fund, the Principal thereof shall be augmented by grants, donations and other lawful transfers by public or private entities.
Panganiban said that according to the Bureau of Treasury, “the total amount of the coconut levy fund is P62.5 billion in cash, deposited in special account in the general fund, which is not earning interest because it cannot be invested, adding that it needs a law in order to be utilized.”
The other amount of P13.09 billion is held in escrow and earning interest, he said.
He also cited the PCGG report which stated that as of 2014, the coconut levy assets amount to around P20 billion.