The House of Representatives led by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is poised to approve on third and final reading next week House Bill 9197 which establishes the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund which shall be used exclusively for the ultimate benefit of coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.
The bill, principally authored by Arroyo and Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairman Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr.,CPA, LLB of ANAC IP party-list, was approved on second reading Wednesday night.
The bill declares that it is the policy of the State to pursue and attain the balanced, equitable, integrated, and sustainable growth and development of the coconut industry. Towards this end, the State shall adopt the necessary measures to immediately address the serious problems besetting the coconut industry, protect the socioeconomic well-being of coconut farmers, and ensure that the benefits due them, especially the poor and the marginalized, under various statutes shall be consolidated and their delivery expedited.
Any measure or program undertaken in accordance to the Act shall be deemed complementary to and shall not be a replacement for existing and potential coconut development programs already conducted by other agencies.
The initial capital of the Trust Fund shall come from all assets and/or properties derived from coconut levy recovered assets and all dividends, interest earnings, and incomes that are available upon the effectivity of the Act.
The Trust Fund shall thereafter be augmented with all the proceeds of privatization/disposition of the coconut levy assets remitted directly thereto by the Privatization Management Office, including all forms of income, interests, earnings, yields, or any monetary benefit derived from prior to the privatization/disposition of these coconut levy assets.
The Trust Fund shall be maintained for a period of 30 years or until the fund is fully utilized. No portion of the Trust Fund shall be derived from the General Fund of the National Government. Any unutilized balance in the Trust Fund after 30 years shall revert to the General Fund of the National Government, and shall be capitalized, managed, utilized, and accounted for in the manner provided in the Act.
As defined in the bill, a coconut farmer refers to: 1) farmer-owner of a coconut farm who: a) tills the land (owner-cultivator); or b) does not till the land but has control and supervision over the cultivation of a farm; and 2) non-owner of the coconut farm who is either a) leaseholder or tenant who tills or supervises the cultivation of the farm: or b) farm worker or laborer, whether seasonal or itinerant, engaged in the harvesting of the nuts and processing of copra as major means of livelihood.
The bill provides for the creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee which shall coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan.
The Administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) shall be appointed as Executive Director of the Committee, with powers such as execute policies and administer the programs approved or promulgated the committee.
The Committee shall maintain records and accounts of all investments, income, receipts, disbursements and other transactions relating to the management, administration and disposition of the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund shall be audited by the Commission on Audit (COA).
All releases from the Trust Fund approved by the Committee shall be released directly to the implementing agencies. Disbursements in violation of the purpose of the Trust Fund shall be void and shall subject the erring officials and employees to disciplinary action and appropriate criminal action.
The Bureau of the Treasury shall be designated as the depository of the Trust Fund. The BTr may designate alternative depository banks.
The Trust Fund shall be available and may be utilized only for the purpose for which it was created and upon authorization of the Committee subject to the following conditions: 1) P10 billion of the initial trust principal, which shall be known as the Jumpstart Fund may be used within two years starting from the approval of the President to jumpstart the development of the industry; 2) an annual allocation of at least P5 billion shall be released for the programs and projects provided under the Act; and 3) ceiling for expenses shall be provided in the Implementing Rules and Regulations under Section 26 of the Act.
An Ad Hoc Committee, to be chaired by the PCA Administrator, shall be created to be composed of technical officials from government agencies and representatives from coconut farmers’ organizations and different coconut industry sectors.
The Ad Hoc Committee shall formulate the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, guided by the following objectives: 1) raise the income of coconut farmers, and coconut productivity; 2) establish coconut-based enterprises, including integrated processing of coconut products and downstream products; 3) rehabilitate and modernize the coconut industry towards global competitiveness; 4) provision of timely and critical support to coconut farmers organizations; and 5) establish social protection programs for coconut farmers and farm workers.
The bill also provides for the privatization of the Coconut Levy Assets. The Governance Commission for Government-Owned or –Controlled Corporations shall determine whether it is to the best interest of the government to privatize any non-cash Coco Levy Asset and recommend to the President the privatization and the mode of divestment.
All proceeds and receipts or revenues rising out or in connection with the privatization of the Coconut Levy Assets shall be deposited to the Trust Fund, after deducting reasonable expenses actually, directly, and exclusively incurred by the PMO.
Upon the effectivity of this Act, the PCGG shall conduct a complete accounting and inventory of the Coconut Levy Assets as well as the investments, disbursement, and expenditures relating to the coconut levy fund and submit a certified report to the BTr, the Commission on Audit (COA), and the Office of the President (OP).
Coconut Levy Assets refer to any and all kinds of property, whether real or personal, tangible or intangible, wherever situated, which have been acquired through or otherwise funded by the Coconut Levy Funds, including those assets that may be recovered in favor of the Government, as well as the fruits or income derived therefrom, including those acquired in exchange or substitution thereof, including but not limited to the following: the shares of stock in the UCPB determined to be owned by the Government; the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) Oil Mills Group; the CIIF Holding Companies; the Converted SMC Series 1 Preferred Shares; and remaining CIIF SMC Block Shares or the proceeds of their sale.