DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A militant peasant group is demanding assurance from the government that the return of the coconut levy fund to the farmers would not be compromised following the suspension of Philippine Coconut Authority chief Avelino “Billy” Andal.
“We need a solid assurance from the Duterte administration that the coco levy fund is intact, secured and safeguarded and will be returned to coconut farmers,” said Jonathan Moico, convenor of Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin in a statement on Tuesday.
CLAIM is an alliance of coconut farmers from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan.
Andal was suspended reportedly “in connection with alleged irregularities in coco lumber cutting and transport permits,” Moico said.
Moico said they are not privy to the “individual interests” and “politics” at play inside the PCA, but maintained that the P75 billion fund must not be touched by any entity. Moico asserted that the rightful ownership of the fund belongs solely to the farmers.
“Coconut farmers are the rightful owners and beneficiaries of the coco levy fund. Coconut farmers have clear proposals on the return and utilization of the coco levy fund. The PCA or even Malacanang do not have the right to make their own decisions on how the fund shall be utilized,” Moico said.
Mocio said the farmers groups already agreed to declare the coco levy fund as a “Genuine Small Coconut Farmers Trust Fund”, which will be managed by the “Small Coconut Farmers Council.”
“Coconut farmers continue to assert that the entire coco levy fund and assets, including but not limited to the United Coconut Planters Bank and coco levy fund-acquired coconut oil mills, should be administered, utilized and used for the benefit of small coconut farmers and the genuine development of the coconut industry in support of national industrialization,” Moico added.
The return of the coco levy fund to the farmers was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte. On March 2016 in Quezon province, Duterte and then running mate Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano signed a manifesto promising to return the fund to the farmers within the first 100 days of his office. (davaotoday.com)