President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed a bill strengthening the Philippine Coconut Authority for lacking necessary safeguards, believing such measure would go against the full utilization and distribution of coco levy funds to beneficiaries.
In his letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and members of the Senate, Duterte said he returned the measure titled “An Act to Further Strengthen the PCA” without affixing his signature.
According to the President, he recognized the bill aimed to adopt necessary measures to immediately address the serious problems besetting the coconut industry, protect the socio-economic well-being of coconut farmers, and ensure that the benefits due our coconut farmers are consolidated and their delivery expedited.
The present formulation of the proposed legislative measure, however, “regrettably lacks vital safeguards to avoid the repetition of painful mistakes in the past.”
“The provisions of the bill do not reflect our ultimate goal of accelerating the full utilization of coco levy assets and funds for the benefit of our marginalized coconut farmers and the coconut industry,” Duterte said.
“The powers given to the PCA under the proposed measure, read together with the proposed ‘Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act,’ undermine relevant regulations and safeguards that were established precisely to avoid abuses,” he added.
The President also said he, even the Congress, should not allow coconut farmers to be exposed to injury because of the proposed law, stressing that necessary safeguards must be instituted in the measure to prevent the negative impact on beneficiaries.
“In view of these considerations, I am constrained to veto the enrolled bill,” he said.
The President also noted that the vetoed legislation was a consolidated version of Senate Bill 1976 and House Bill 8852
SB 1976, or the Strengthened PCA Act, aims to amend the Presidential Decree 1468 or the Revised Coconut Industry Code of 1978, seeking to provide greater farmer representation in the PCA board.
Malacañang has yet to react on the matter.
Two months ago, Agriculture chief Emmanuel Piñol mulled that the President had sought the courtesy resignations of the current PCA officials.
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According to him, the supposed reorganization of the said agency would give Duterte a “free hand” in selecting new directors in the preparation of the proposed Coco Levy Act.
Under the proposed Coco Levy Act, the P100-billion fund for coco levy shall be handled by the newly-formed PCA.
Then, the reconstituted PCA shall be composed of a representative from the PCA, the Department of Finance, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Budget and Management, one coconut industry stakeholder, and six coconut farmers (two each from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao).
Currently, the PCA is chaired by the Agriculture secretary and vice-chaired by its administrator with four board members.
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