November 22 ------ The establishment of a Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund drew closer to become a reality following the approval on Wednesday of the funding requirement of the bill providing for such fund. The House Committee on Appropriations swiftly approved the proposed budgetary requirements for the implementation of the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act that is contained in 16 legislative proposals pending before the Committee on Agriculture.
Quezon Rep. Wilfredo Mark Enverga defended the measure during the virtual committee meeting yesterday, stressing that the bill will pave the way for the modernization of the coconut industry and the improvement of the lives of millions of Filipinos whose livelihood rely on the product. Enverga, together with Deputy Speakers Michael Romero (1PACMAN Partylist) and Rufus Rodriguez (Independent, Cagayan de Oro City); and Reps. Aleta Suarez (Lakas-CMD, Quezon); Jericho Jonas Nograles (PBA Partylist); Alan Peter Cayetano (NP, Taguig-Pateros) and Romeo Jalosjos Jr. (PDP-Laban, Zamboanga del Norte), among others.
Enverga said the bill will re-introduce the coconut levy program to the executive department. He stressed that passage of the bill is part of the campaign pledge of President Rodrigo Duterte when he ran and won the presidency. Duterte, however, vetoed the bill as he urged Congress to craft a better version of the law that will protect public funds “from irregularities.” Suarez noted that the Supreme Court had ruled that the coconut levy fund and coconut levy assets are public funds and must be used only for the intended purpose of benefitting all coconut farmers and and pursue development in the coconut industry.
“This trust fund shall originate from the coconut levy fund and its assets shall be allocated o support our coconut farmers and support research and development in the coconut industry,” the lady solon said. For his part, Jalosjos said the creation of the trust fund has long been overdue, pointing out that coconut farmers have been deprived of utilization after being “declared conclusively owned” by the government. Nearly common among the bills filed is the allocation of P10 billion in initial trust principal to be known as the jumpstart fund that will be used within two years for programs approved by the president.
A P5 billion annual allocation will also be released by government to finance projects for the development of the coconut industry.