Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday said she has committed to further push for the release and utilization of the P105 billion after President Rodrigo Duterte in his State of The Nation Address ordered that the coconut levy fund be used for the welfare of coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.
“Like the President, I believe that the urgent utilization of the coconut levy fund will help uplift the lives of coconut farmers,” Villar said.
She said that the release of the coco levy fund has long been overdue. She said the money for coconut farmers, which they rightfully own, will also benefit the coconut industry, not only the 3.5 million coconut farmers.
In his 5th SONA, the President also urged “both Houses of Congress to pass a version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund”.
As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, Villar has already sponsored a revised version of the bill on May 28, 2020, plenary discussion of the legislation has already started.
She said the bill was re-filed with some modifications, taking into consideration the inputs being suggested by the executive branch of government so it will not be vetoed again. “We are confident that it will already be enacted into law, given the President’s support,” said Villar.
Earlier, the President vetoed the version approved during the 17th Congress in 2019. Since his SONA in 2016, he has vowed to pass a law for the utilization of the coco levy fund. In his SONA on Monday, he said will leave it up to Congress to “sort out” on “how best the money can be utilized”.
The Villar-sponsored Senate Bill No. 1396 under Committee Report No. 65 or “An Act Creating the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, Providing for Its Management and Utilization, Reconstituting for the Purpose the Philippine Coconut Authority Board is a substitute of Senate Bill Nos. 31, 266, 1052, and 1127.
In the new bill, The Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund will be managed and disbursed in accordance with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan to be implemented by the Philippine Coconut Authority, as approved by the President of the Philippines. The Plan shall set how the coconut industry will be rehabilitated in the next ninety-nine (99) years, which is the suggested lifespan of the Trust Fund.