President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law Friday a legislation creating a trust fund for the country’s coconut industry and its workers.
President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act crafted to develop the coconut industry using recovered coco levy assets, which were declared state-owned by the Supreme Court (SC) less than 10 years ago.
The new law mandates the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to craft the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan that will set the directions and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the industry within 50 years.
The plan aims to increase farm productivity and farmers’ income, alleviate poverty, create social equity, rehabilitate and at the same time modernize the coconut industry.
The plan also incorporates a national program intended for community-based enterprises, coconut farmers’ organization, innovative research projects, as well as integrated processing of coconut and downstream products.
Republic Act 11524 also mandates the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) to infuse P10 billion to the trust fund in the first year of its implementation. Another P10 billion will be transferred in the second year; P15 billion in the third year; P15 billion in the fourth year; and P25 billion during the fifth year.
The utilization of the trust fund shall be in accordance with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, according to the law. It allows an initial allocation of P5 billion to government agencies implementing development projects for the coconut industry.
The Trust Fund Management Committee, tasked to set the fund’s investment strategy, will be composed of representatives from the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM, and Department of Justice (DOJ).
The government started collecting the coco levy funds from coconut farmers in 1971 through levies, taxes, charges and other fees imposed with the sale of copra rececada.
Aside from coconut farmers, the funds were collected from millers, refiners, processors, exporters and copra end-users.
Several groups filed various lawsuits to wrest control of the funds after the EDSA People Power Revolution. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the coco levy funds were publicly-owned, prompting the government to craft ways on how to develop the coconut industry using the multi-billion assets. PND