Group slams PNoy’s plan to use P11.17-B of coco levy funds for ‘pantawid’

THE militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan (Koprahan) today warned the President Aquino of inciting a small coconut farmers’ revolt on National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) secretary Joel Rocamora’s plan to use the coco levy funds for its so-called “Poverty Reduction Roadmap of the Coconut Industry.”

“Under the NAPC’s roadmap, the Aquino government would be spending P11.17 billion of the coco levy funds in five years,” says KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella referring to the December 2011 draft “Poverty Reduction Roadmap of the Coconut Industry” prepared by NAPC in behalf of the Technical Working Group – Enhanced Coco Roadmap (NAPC, DA-PCA, DAR, DSWD, NCI, Philhealth).

Marbella said the NAPC-led Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy Fund’s poverty reduction roadmap includes government programs like the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) “Pantawid Program” and the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) Land Tenure Improvement that are already funded under the general fund and that “using the coco levy funds for these programs would be highly unacceptable and condemnable for small coconut farmers.”

“With the NAPC’s plan to use our money, the Aquino government is inciting a coconut farmers’ revolt,” warned Marbella, a coconut farmer from Bicol who still holds his father’s certificates of stock in four coconut oil mills.

“And, with Aquino’s deafening silence on the issue,” Marbella said, “we have all the reason to fear that our money will be plundered again.”

The KMP and Koprahan reiterated calls for the immediate cash distribution of the coco levy funds and urged Congress for the passage of pending bills seeking the return of the coco levy funds.

“The passage of the coco levy fund bill seeking to return the multi-billion coconut levy funds to its rightful owners should be Congress’ greatest priority today. Our money is in danger of being stolen again,” the peasant leader said.

“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.”

Among the bills pending before the House are 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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