Coco farmers warn Aquino vs dipping his hands on coco funds

THE militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan (KOPRAHAN) today warned the Aquino government against using the coco levy funds in its so-called anti-poverty programs. The groups also pushed for the immediate cash distribution of the coco levy funds to small coconut farmers, an idea that was first raised by Sen. Joker Arroyo.

Reports said the Supreme Court affirmed and decided with finality the 2004 Sandiganbayan ruling that awarded to the government the 24-percent block of sequestered shares in San Miguel Corp. (SMC) acquired with the funds from the coconut levy imposed during the martial law years.

The ruling threw out the motion for reconsideration of the Coconut Producers Federation (Cocofed) of the high court’s decision in January awarding the 700 million SMC preferred shares of stock worth P52.5 billion at P75 per share to the government to be used for the benefit of the coconut farmers.

“While we welcome the Supreme Court ruling, the Aquino government must be warned against dipping its hands on small coconut farmers’ money,” says KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella, a small coconut farmer from Bicol.

Marbella, also Koprahan spokesperson, said “under the guise of developing the coconut industry, the Aquino government wants to dip its hands over the multi-billion coconut levy funds.”

“It’s already an open book that the Aquino government and its National Anti-Poverty Commission are itching to use the coco levy funds for their anti-people programs,” Marbella said.

Last March, NAPC Secretary Joel Rocamora’s confirmed that the Aquino administration would set up an inter-agency group, along with the NAPC and the DSWD, are planning to borrow off the coco levy funds.

“Borrowing off from the coco levy funds? ‘Borrowing the funds’ is precisely the same alibi used by Danding to cover up the crime of plunder and strengthen his control over the coco levy funds,” says Marbella.

“Even the so-called inter-agency group bear similarity with the Marcos regime’s interlocking directorate on the coco levy funds,” Marbella said referring to the interlocking directorate of Marcos cronies led by Cojuangco.

“Small coconut farmers are bound to resist attempts to further plunder the coco levy funds by people coming from the political breed of the Peace Bonds syndicate now being coddled by Aquino’s haciendero regime,” the peasant leader warned.

KMP and KOPRAHAN are now pushing for the immediate cash distribution of the coco levy funds to small coconut farmers floated by Senator Arroyo last April.

“Yes, we should not be incidental beneficiaries of the coco levy funds. We, our parents, and our entire class were robbed with cash by the Marcos-Cojuangco clique and it is only just and legitimate to return the cash to us,” said Marbella.

“There is no pronouncement from the government that the farmers would be cash recipients of the court decision. They would be incidental beneficiaries when the coconut industry is revived,” Arroyo said last April. “The farmers parted with hard-earned cash, but they would not be given cash in return; they would be given benefits in kind, tools, seedlings, credit facilities, etc. The irony of it all is that the principal beneficiaries, the government and the industry, had not contributed to the coco levy fund.”

However, the KMP and Koprahan also reiterated calls for the enactment of House Bill 3443 or the proposed Coconut Levy Funds Administration and Management Act filed by Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano.

HB 3443 defines the “exclusivity of use of the coco levy funds” to ensure that it is used primarily to the best interests of small coconut farmers.

“The enactment of House Bill 3443 will ensure the direct and immediate return of the funds to small coconut farmers, the legitimate and rightful owners of the coco levy funds,” the groups said.


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