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Villar upbeat on coconut fund law

About 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut- producing provinces owning not more than five hectares for the last 10 years will benefit from President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing into law of a measure that seeks to create a trust fund for coconut farmers, Senator Cynthia Villar said.

“The coconut farmers are the poorest in the country. They earn only about P1,500 a month. This fund, which rightfully belongs to the coconut farmers, should be plowed back to them for their own direct benefit,” said Villar, head of the Senate committee on Agriculture and Food.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco praised Duterte for signing into law Republic Act 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act.

“We express our sincerest gratitude to President Duterte for signing into law this landmark legislation that would create a trust fund to finally allow farmers to directly benefit from the multi-billion-peso coconut levy funds collected during the Marcos era,” he said.

“Indeed, this is a monumental moment for more than three million coconut farmers who have long been denied the fund that rightfully belongs to them.”

Velasco is one of the principal authors of the measure.

AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin cited the signing of Republic Act 11524 to provide the “much-needed relief for the families of coconut farmers who have long waited for their share” and are now beleaguered by the adverse economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Garin, the head of the technical working group on the House version of the bill for three consecutive Congresses, said it was a manifestation of the government's commitment to protect the welfare of the small and marginalized coconut farmers.

Villar, principal sponsor of Senate Bill 1396 or the "Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act," says this law is in consonance with the declared policy of the state to consolidate the benefits due coconut farmers and to expedite their delivery to attain increased incomes for them and to ease their poverty and achieve social equality.

She hopes this law will finally resolve the decades-old issue surrounding the coco levy fund. She says it will carry out its two-pronged goal—to help coconut farmers and develop the coconut industry.

Under Senate Bill 1396, the government is mandated to turn over P75 billion of the coconut levy assets in the next five years to create a trust fund for the coconut farmers.

Immediately after the passage of the bill into law, Villar says, the Bureau of Treasury will transfer P10 billion to the trust fund and for the succeeding years according to the following schedule: 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.

Furthermore, she says the trust fund will be augmented with all the proceeds of privatization or disposition of the Coconut Levy Assets remitted directly by the BTr and the Privatization and Management Office.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Cynthia Villar , Sharon Garin , Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act , Lord Allan Velasco
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