Press Release
October 7, 2016

Villar: Senate to fast-track enactment of bill creating the coco levy trust fund

Sen. Cynthia Villar said the bill that will allow 3.5 million coconut farmers to finally benefit from the P100-billion coconut levy fund will be soon enacted.

Villar commended the Committee on Agriculture and Food now chaired by Sen. Francis Pangilinan for prioritizing the bill, which reached the plenary debates in the 16th Congress but failed to pass third reading due to the disagreement on how the funds will be invested.

"As a finance person, I prefer that the coconut farmers' money be put in low-risk investments nang sa ganoon, kahit maliit ang kita makakasiguro tayo na nariyan ang pondo habang-buhay," Villar said, adding that an investment in Philippine government securities would yield a minimum of P2 billion a year.

Villar, vice chair of the agriculture committee, said the bill will make sure that the coco levy trust fund will provide additional support to the coconut farmers.

A unique feature of Senate Bill 139 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act authored by Villar, is a provision mandating the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to continue with its regular programs and projects.

"PCA as the assigned agency that supports the coconut industry, will be funded with not less than P5 billion annually by the General Appropriations Act. The coco levy fund will not be touched to fund PCA because doing so will defeat the purpose of providing additional support to farmers," she stressed.

The Villar proposal also included an earmarking of the PCA budget. In consultation with the agency, the P5-billion budget will be distributed as follows: P1 billion for Personnel Services and Administration and P4 billion for Projects (infrastructure, 25 percent; planting, replanting, fertilization and development of seedling nurseries, 15 percent; shared facilities program, 15 percent; research and development, 10 percent; opening of new markets, 10 percent; and palm oil, 5 percent).

"Maganda po itong earmarking kasi hindi naman natin masasabi kung sino ang magma-manage ng PCA. At least kapag may earmarking tayong ganito, wala silang discretion; they give the budget as is," Villar said.

Villar said earmarking was also provided in Republic Act 10659 or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015 covering funding for socialized credit, scholarship grants, infrastructure support programs, among others.

The Nacionalista Party senator also suggested an inter-cropping training program for coconut farmers to supplement their income.

"Under the coconut tree, we should be able to do intercropping and livestock. We should be able to take advantage of the growing demand for coffee and cacao. International companies such as Nestle and Kennemer are in the country because they want to develop the coffee and cacao industry in the Philippines," Villar said

Villar said after waiting for more than 40 years, a law will finally be passed for the coconut industry to access the coco levy fund. The law was carefully crafted to make sure that the money will be spent wisely and it will really be given for the benefit of the coconut farmers, especially those who are earning P50 a day.

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