Coco levy fund claimants’ summit set

THE militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan (KOPRAHAN) today announced that small coconut farmers are all set for a coco levy fund claimants’ summit and claim their money from the coco levy funds now in the hands of the Aquino government.

KMP and KOPRAHAN said small coconut farmers from coconut producing provinces across the country will attend the “Coco Levy Funds Claimants’ Summit” on November 13, Tuesday, at the Barangay Mayao Silangan Basketball Court, in Lucena City to discuss how to claim their money.

“Tuesday’s summit would signal the start of a nationwide campaign to reclaim the coco levy funds. This will be followed by provincial, municipal, up to barrio-level assemblies that includes screening, verification, and enlistment of small coconut farmer-claimants,” says KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella.

Marbella said small coconut farmers “who still hold their receipts and certificates of stocks in coco oil mills are welcome to attend the summit.”

“This is open to all small coconut farmers,” he said.

KMP and KOPRAHAN are pushing for the immediate cash distribution of the coco levy funds to small coconut farmers and the enactment of House Bill 3443 or the proposed Coconut Levy Funds Administration and Management Act filed by Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano.

However, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he did not favor the distribution of money to individual coconut farmers from the nearly P70-billion fund representing a 24-percent stake in San Miguel Corp. (SMC) that was turned over to the government last month.

Marbella, a small coconut farmer from Bicol who still holds his father’s certificates of stocks in various oil mills, said “coconut farmers have all the right to claim their money from the Aquino government.”

“Again, we are not incidental beneficiaries of the coco levy funds. Coconut farmers were robbed with cash by the Marcos-Cojuangco clique and it is only just and legitimate to return the cash to us,” says Marbella.

“Is Alcala mouthing the official position of the Aquino government?” Marbella asked adding: “In fact, the President’s deafening silence on the coco levy funds issue since he assumed office continues to bolster our fear that our money will be stolen again.”

“The government and the so-called coconut industry did not even contribute a single cent to the coco levy funds. Not a single cent,” Marbella said.

“The money was forcibly collected from coconut farmers alone. We are the legitimate owners of the billions of money that the Aquino government now holds,” says Marbella. “The Aquino government doesn’t have the right to use our money.”

At the same time, Anakpawis’ 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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