None of NAPC’s 81 consultants faced coco farmers

THE peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan (Koprahan) today scored National Anti-Poverty Commission secretary Joel Rocamora’s claim that “there is nothing extraordinary or anomalous about the practice of hiring consultants and contract of service staff” by the agency which is being questioned by the Commission on Audit (CoA).

The KMP issued the statement after Rocamora said that “the hiring of 81 consultants is legal” and that he “agreed and supported to use the recovered coco levy funds for the welfare of coconut farmers” after the KMP stormed the NAPC last Thursday.

“None of Rocamora’s 50 plus consultants faced us when we trooped to the NAPC to warn them against stealing the multi-billion coconut levy funds owned by small coconut farmers,” says KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella.

“The Quezon coconut farmers’ assertion last Thursday is the third time that we went to NAPC. First, on October 5, the day when San Miguel Corp. redeemed the 24 percent coco levy fund shares, and, on October 16, during World Food Day. For three consecutive times, Rocamora did not face us. Not even one from his battalion of consultants. Walang humarap kahit isa. Ano ‘yun ghost consultants?,” Marbella said.

Marbella, also the spokesperson of Koprahan, said “the absentee secretary of the NAPC is missing our point.”

“The point is, we do not agree to his P11.15-billion so-called poverty reduction roadmap of the coconut industry that includes the corruption-tainted ‘Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)’ and the sham comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP). He should not dare touch our money. He has no right to use our money,” the peasant leader stressed.

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.

Last April, former Akbayan chief and NAPC secretary Joel 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.

“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.

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