Duterte ​urged ​to certify coco levy bill

Nov. 03, 2016
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao delivers a solidarity message during the protest rally led by the newly-formed national minority alliance Sandugo held in front of the Department of Justice office in Padre Faura street, Manila on Monday. (Paulo C. Rizal/davaotoday.com)

Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao (Paulo C. Rizal/davaotoday.com)

TAGUM CITY, Philippines—A militant party-list representative urged President Rodrigo Duterte Thursday to certify as urgent House Bill No. 557 or the Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund as it warned of legislative proposals that deprived coconut farmers of their legitimate claim.

“The Duterte Presidency should be watchful of the many bills on coco levy funds, such as the substitute bill last Congress, but was only attempting to privatize the fund and treat the farmers, who are the real owners, as mendicants,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said.

Casilao is referring to the substitute bill for House Bills No. 1327, 4900, 5208 and 5250, filed during the 16th Congress.

It can be recalled that former Anakpawis Rep. Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap, authored then House Bill No. 1327, Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund, which eventually had been pulled out from being a co-author as the substitute bill did not express the sentiments of the farmers.

“Most bills consider even the landlord as coconut farmers, put priority to the industry and treat farmers as ‘accidental beneficiaries,’” Casilao said.

Anakpawis’ coco levy fund bill, according to Casilao, intends to distribute the coconut levy funds by establishing a council administered by small coconut farmers.

“The fund shall be apportioned to all coconut farmers in the form of financial assistance and social benefits such as pension, medical and hospitalization, maternity, educational assistance and scholarships; and finance socio-economic projects,” he said.

Livelihood programs for them to have additional incomes, small and medium-scale coconut enterprises and programs for loan facilities for small coconut farmers were among the provisions stated in HB 557.

“The bill we filed is concretely proposed by the coconut farmers themselves, under the banner of Coco Levy Ibalik Sa Amin or CLAIM movement, from coconut-producing regions such as Bicol, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, Aurora province, and some parts of Mindanao, that is why we take integrity to the term ‘genuine,’ contrasting other bills filed by those representing the landlord and big businesses whose interests are only to profit from the fund, pillaged from the poor farmers during the Marcos dictatorship,” Casilao said. (davaotoday.com)

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