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Letters to the Editor

Overdue: cash distribution of coco funds to coco farmers

/ 12:04 AM February 18, 2017

On behalf of all coconut farmers, I heartily support the clamor of Jose P. Crisologo to return the coco levy funds to the legal claimants in cash (“Return coco levy fund to rightful claimants—in cash,” Letters, 12/31/16). Via several letters, I have made the same appeal through different national and local newspapers.

There has been no lack of suggestions on how to use the coco levy funds. Someone suggested that a part of these be spent to buy coco seedlings, fertilizers and insecticides for distribution to coco farmers.

I beg to disagree considering that the materials are already covered by the budget of the Department of Agriculture.

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During martial law, starting in 1973 up to 1982, 55 centavos was exacted from coco farmers for every 100 kilos of copra, with the end-view of collecting P10 million in 10 years. Ferdinand Marcos, with his dictatorial powers, entrusted Danding Cojuangco (then the Philippine Coconut Authority administrator) with this task, together with Juan Ponce Enrile and Maria Clara Lobregat, the president of the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation.

As reports go, the coco levy collection was used by some Marcos cronies to buy shares of stock in banks, oil mills and other industrial and commercial corporations. To date, the coco levy funds have ballooned to P75 billion, more or less.

A recent drought adversely affected the coconut industry and more than 3.5 million coco farmers. Glan, in the province of Sarangani, the biggest copra-producer at the municipal level, suffered most from the natural calamity.

For more than 38 years, during the term of presidents Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III, the coco farmers patiently waited for the release and distribution of the coco levy funds in cash. It is time the funds, held in trust by the government for the coco farmers, were shared fairly by the legal claimants.

I am very optimistic that President Duterte, a man of action, will facilitate the immediate release and distribution of the coco levy funds in cash to alleviate the plight of the coco farmers, most of whom are among the poorest Filipinos. This could be one of his legacies that Filipinos would long cherish.

Most of the coco farmers, including myself, are suffering from lingering ailments. We need cash for subsistence and medication. What good is the hay if the horse is dead?

Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s before corrupt politicians and public officials take it.

DODONG L. FLORES, Glan, Sarangani

TAGS: Coco farmers, coco funds, coco levy, coco levy collection
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