Small coco farmers storm NAPC, slam “coco levy mafia”

SMALL coconut farmers from Quezon led by the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan (Koprahan) stormed the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) office in Quezon City today in time with the reconvening of the Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy Fund that is set to finalize its recommendation to the President following a recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the contested funds.

“Any recommendation from the Aquino-created task force that excludes the real and rightful owners of the coco levy funds is highly unacceptable to small coconut farmers,” said KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella.

“This Palace-created task force is no less than a political reincarnation of the ‘Coco Levy Mafia’ that plundered the coco levy funds,” Marbella said referring to the “PCA-UCPB-Cocofed interlocking directorate” during martial law, the time the coco levy was imposed.

Last month, the SC ruled with finality the 25-percent bloc of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) shares bought using coconut levy money.

The task force is headed by the NAPC, and includes the Presidential Management Staff, Presidential Commission on Good Government, Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, and Philippine Coconut Authority.

The President has asked the task force to come up with a report and a recommendation on the issues surrounding the coco levy fund in light of the ruling of the SC.

Marbella noted that “since Aquino assumed the presidency he is so silent on the issue of the coco levy funds plundered by his uncle, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.”

“Today, Aquino and his political lieutenants are now scheming to once again plunder and put into wastage the small coconut farmers’ money under the guise of its so-call anti-poverty programs,” said Marbella, also the spokesperson of Koprahan.

“The coco levy funds were exacted from our sweat and blood. The money should be immediately returned to small coconut farmers and not to sham anti-poverty and counter-insurgency programs like the conditional cash transfer and the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program,” he 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, and are planning to borrow off the coco levy funds.

“Aquino and his Coco Levy Mafia will face the wrath of small coconut farmers once it turns our money into another milking cow especially today that the election is near,” 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 Joker Arroyo last April.

“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.”

The groups 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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