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Coco levy fund EOs constitutional, P-Noy is pro-coco farmers

/ 12:02 AM June 24, 2015

In Rina Jimenez-David’s column titled “Why the rush on coco levy funds?” (Opinion, 5/31/15), she made mention of several points raised by Charlie Avila, executive director and spokesperson of the Confederation of Coconut Farmers Organizations of the Philippines (CCFOP), against the two executive orders issued by President Aquino regarding the coco levy funds.

Contrary to what CCFOP claims, the EOs, signed March 18, 2015, were not “rushed.” Prior to their issuances, several consultations were made with farmers’ groups. In fact, President Aquino, upon reading the news of the then-impending Kilus Magniniyog March on Sept. 22, 2014, directed, through the executive secretary, the presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization (Opafsam), Secretary Francis Pangilinan, to look into the issues raised by the coconut farmers.

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As early as July 2014, a total of 15 separate meetings and consultations with farmers’ groups had been made; these, prior to the President’s dialogue with the coconut farmers at Malacañang last Nov. 26. A summary of agreements were signed the next day to support the President’s commitment to fast-track the passage of a law that will create a coco levy trust fund, as per consultations with the coconut farmers.

To further the involvement of the coconut farmers in the development of the coconut industry, the Opafsam and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) convened the National Investment Summit for Coconut-Based Farm Enterprises last Feb. 26 to promote coconut-based enterprises and forge partnerships among the industry’s stakeholders. A National Coconut Farmers Conference was also held last Feb. 25 to discuss with 200 farmers from all over the country the initiatives of the PCA in establishing community enterprises for a sustainable coconut industry.

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The cases concerning the coco levy have been pending for several decades. The EOs do not exist to “make a mockery of what the Supreme Court has declared public trust funds by rushing to privatize them.” The executive is merely implementing the Court’s decision. The EOs were precisely issued to keep the assets from being dissipated.

To clarify, the EOs do not direct the privatization of the coco levy assets. In fact, the EOs exist to ensure the creation of a body that will study how to dispose the assets for the benefit of the coconut farmers.

The farmers wanted the establishment of a personal trust fund, but the President has no authority to do this. The Opafsam is closely working with Congress on the bills that pertain to the coco levies precisely because the President recognizes the need for a law to ensure the long-term direction on the use of the coco levy funds.

Under present laws the President can do the acts contemplated on the EOs. The EOs were issued consistent with existing laws and, thus, we maintain that they are constitutional.

We reiterate that the President is on the side of the coconut farmers and that consultations will continue to be held to ensure that the coco levy funds will be properly used.

—RACHEL G. GILLEGO, chief of staff, Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization

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TAGS: coco levy fund, Confederation of Coconut Farmers Organizations of the Philippines, Kilus Magniniyog March, P-Noy, Philippine Coconut Authority
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