A government committee agreed to ensure the proper management of the coconut levy trust fund of about P75 billion, which the Duterte administration promised to return to its true owners, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Friday.
The interagency Trust Fund Management Committee created under the law to oversee and set the investment strategy of the newly-created Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund convened Thursday for its inaugural meeting.
Under Section 10 of Republic Act 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, the committee is composed of representatives from the Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Justice.
Dominguez was elected as TFMC chairman, Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko as the manager of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund and National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon as head of the TFMC Secretariat.
The TFMC also includes Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra as members.
“After many years of intense political debate, it was only during the Duterte administration that the Coco Levy law was finally enacted. This marks a promise fulfilled by the President who, in his 2019 SONA, vowed to return these funds taken arbitrarily from the pockets of Filipinos back to its true owner,” Dominguez said during the meeting.
“It is now the task of the Trust Fund Management Committee to properly manage the coconut levy trust fund, which is estimated at P75 billion, so that it serves our strategic development goals,” he said.
“As we plan out the next steps to be undertaken by the committee, we must ensure that we perform our functions with transparency, accountability and prudence,” said Dominguez.
The committee also noted its accomplishments such as the P10-billion capitalization of the trust fund from the special account for coco levies and deposit of P256 million worth of accumulated cash dividends from San Miguel shares to the trust fund, as mandated by RA 11524; the establishment of the coco levy asset registry to keep track of the status of coco levy assets.
The committee also published on June 10, 2021 the implementing rules and regulations of Sections 9 to 11 of Republic Act 11524 with June 25, 2021 as effectivity date; and discussed the disbursement guidelines to effectively implement the Coconut Industry Development Plan.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 115421 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act In February 2021 that seeks to declare coconut levy assets as a trust fund to rehabilitate and modernize the country’s coconut industry.
The measure allows poor coconut farmers to benefit from taxes collected from them decades ago. Under the law, the use of the trust fund will be based on a development plan prepared by the Philippine Coconut Authority, which should consult coconut farmers and their organizations, industry associations, civil society groups and government agencies about the use of the money.
The Treasury was required to transfer P10 billion to the trust fund in the first year, P10 billion in the second year, P15 billion in the third year, P15 billion in the fourth year and P25 billion in the fifth year.
The trust fund will be maintained for 50 years. The law is expected to benefit about 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut-producing provinces who own not more than five hectares of farmland.