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President Duterte is pushing for the immediate return of the multi-billion coco levy fund to farmers through programs that will advance their welfare and develop the industry.
The President said a committee composed of representatives from Executive branch, Congress, and the private sector would handle the disposition of the funds.
“It should be returned to the people. The law is actually clear,” the President said in a press conference in Davao City last Friday.
The President admitted that his family was among those who paid the coconut levy during the Marcos administration.
“Pati kami, nag-contribute diyan sa levy na yan, ‘yung pamilya namin. My mother’s coconut, not ours,” he said.
The President, however, said cash releases directly to the farmers was already far-fetched since the number of affected persons could no longer be determined.
Instead, he said, the Supreme Court suggested that R75-billion coconut levy, currently held in trust, must be used for projects for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the industry.
“‘Yung pera medyo malabo na the Supreme Court said so. Pero kung isauli, I want it returned, by way of building institutions, agencies that would enhance the coconut industry. ASAP ako diyan kasi pera ng tao ‘yan,” Duterte said.
The coconut levy was taxes collected from farmers during the Marcos administration meant to develop the industry.
They, however, were diverted by Marcos cronies to buy businesses for their own benefit.
In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld a Sandiganbayan ruling that awarded shares of San Miguel Corp. bought using the coco levy to the government. The decision ordered the funds be used only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.
Recently, the High Court rejected the government’s move to recover the shares in San Miguel Corp. from coconut levy funds that are the subject of a 1990 compromise deal. (GENALYN D. KABILING)