Ex-Akbayan chief warned vs using coco levy funds

THE peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan (Koprahan) today warned former Akbayan president and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) secretary Joel Rocamora’s plan to use the coco levy funds under its so-called “Poverty Reduction Roadmap of the Coconut Industry.”

Rocamora heads the Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy Funds that is pushing for the P11.17 billion five-year “Poverty Reduction Roadmap of the Coconut Industry” that includes the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)” and the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) Land Tenure Improvement, and so-called agro-enterprise development.

KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said “Rocamora’s roadmap is a euphemism for plunder.”

“Using our money for the 4P’s and the sham CARP is highly unacceptable and condemnable. Rocamora will have a taste of small coconut farmers’ fury once he insists on using our money to the very same anti-coconut farmer programs of the government,” warned Marbella, also Koprahan spokesperson.

Last April, Rocamora said the NAPC had drawn up a P10-billion, five-year “road map” to revitalize the coconut industry and that the first year of the program could be funded with loans. “The plan is to borrow off the coco levy,” Rocamora said.

“We don’t trust Rocamora, like former Akbayan chief Ronald Llamas of pirated DVD and AK-47notoriety, to use our money especially in light of next year’s elections where Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel of Akbayan is running for senator,” says Marbella, a coconut farmer from Bicol who still holds his father’s certificates of stock in four coconut oil mills.

“Aquino’s coco levy task force stinks of political opportunism and its so-called coco industry roadmap polluted with corruption-ridden programs,” Marbella said adding: “with Aquino’s deafening silence on the issue, we have all the reason to fear that our money will be plundered again.”

“We demand the immediate distribution of the coconut levy funds to small coconut farmers,” says Marbella adding: “In Quezon province alone, 204,000 coconut farmer-families dependent over 388,664 hectares of coco lands will benefit from the immediate distribution of the coco levy funds.”

Legislations seeking the return of the funds to small coconut farmers are pending before Congress like Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano’s House Bill 3443 which seeks the “Constitution of the Funds into Coconut Farmers’ Fund for the Rehabilitation and Development of the Coconut Industry” and Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada’s House Bill 5070 which seeks to finance programs and help coconut farmers increase their productivity, develop coconut-based enterprises and promote anti-poverty programs.

Last October 5, San Miguel Corporation “redeemed” the Series “1” Preferred Shares which represents the original 27 percent of the coco levy funds, now diluted to 24 percent, of SMC common shares ordered converted into preferred shares by the Supreme Court in 2009.

The order also stipulated that SMC will have the exclusive option to redeem and purchase on the third year (2012) the 27 percent comprising 753.85 million shares at a fixed price of P75 per share instead of at the prevailing market price.

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