Speaker fast-tracking coco levy bill okay

Alan Peter S. Cayetano

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano vowed to have the Coco Levy Fund bill before the year ends.

In an interview, Cayetano said he is optimistic that this time President Rodrigo Duterte will not veto the measure and will give relief to coconut farmers.

“Before the end of the year I’m expecting na yung Coco Levy Funds na batas ay maipapasa natin at iyon po ay mahigit P100 billion,” Cayetano said.

The Speaker wants the House of Representatives to help the coconut farmers uplift their lives.

“So malaking problem po talaga 7 out of 10 of our poorest farmers are coconut farmers, so most of our coconut farmers suma-sideline na ring tricycle driver o umi-extra sa mga restaurant, factory,” he lamented.

Cayetano underscored the need to revitalize the coconut industry.

“So definitely kailangan natin pag-aralan kung paano manumbalik ang sigla ng ating coconut industry at katulad nung ibang bansa na may mga produkto na kilala, katulad ng coco water, yung virgin coconut oil... Maraming mga produkto from coconut na tingin ko na puwedeng pagkakitaan natin, yung coco sugar ‘di ba?! pero kung hindi bubuhusan ng pera hindi ito basta i-invest-an ito ng private sector kasi relatively new yung industry so ito po yung ilan sa mga programa na sa tingin ko kailangan buhusan yung agriculture,” he said.

President Duterte vetoed the Coco Levy fund bill approved during 17th Congress due to lack of safeguards.

In his 2019 State of the Nation Address on July 22 Duterte said he has “not forgotten [his] commitment to uplift the lives of coconut farmers,” among the country’s poorest of the poor.

Duterte made a campaign promise to return the coco levy funds to farmers in his first 100 days in office. But in February 2019, he vetoed the twin bills that would have allowed the return of the money.

The coco levy refers to the taxes imposed on coconut farmers from 1971 to 1983. The amount collected was estimated to be P9.7 billion, which was used to invest in businesses for personal gain.

The proposed bill seeks to improve farmer representation in the PCA, the implementing agency, by allowing the participation of each representative from government agencies including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Science and Technology, Land Bank of the Philippines, and Development Bank of the Philippines.

Cayetano also wants the proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) passed within this year.

Cayetano, as principal author, has instructed the committee concerned to expedite the deliberation on several measures in order to create a substitute bill.

“Well before the end of the year we’re hoping na maipasa namin ang Department of Overseas Filipinos and for Foreign Employment,” Cayetano said.

A joint House panel agreed to create a technical working group (TWG) that would tackle the proposals to create a new department that would look after the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The House committees on government reorganization and on overseas workers affairs approved the motion to create a TWG to consolidate the 31 bills filed at the House of Representatives pushing for the creation of a Department of OFWs.