Farmers slam proposal to use coco fund as copra price subsidy

THE militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the newly-formed claimants movement Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) thumbed down proposals by lawmakers to use the coco levy funds as price subsidy in the face of low prices of copra calling the proposal as “highly unacceptable.”

The KMP and CLAIM issued the statement after Representatives Emil Ong and Ben Evardone called on President Aquino to dip into the P70-billion coco levy fund to protect the 3.5 million coconut farmers from a collapse in copra prices and stave off a brewing social upheaval.

“Only unscrupulous traders will benefit from such proposal. It is highly unacceptable that these traders who are the main culprits in the so-called collapse of copra prices will be the ones to be subsidized by the coco levy funds. It is this proposal that will trigger social unrest,” says KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella.

Marbella also rejected Sen. Ralph Recto’s proposal to use the coco levy to help coconut farmers develop and modernize the coconut industry to include manufacturing coco-based products.

“Recto’s proposal, to use our money under the guise of coconut industry modernization and development, are exactly the same justification used by Marcos and Cojuangco when the coco levy funds were exacted and plundered from small coconut farmers,” Marbella said. “The so-called modernization and development of the coconut industry is for the benefit of corrupt bureaucrats and not for small coconut farmers.”

Marbella, a member of CLAIM’s coordinating body, insists that “the coco levy funds should be distributed in cash and used for socio-economic projects directly managed by small coconut farmers’ organizations and cooperatives.”

Initially, the CLAIM said that “since small coconut farmers no longer have receipts and certificates, beneficiaries can present certificates of membership in small coconut farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, barangay certificates, among others. Definitely, those who have proof or evidences like receipts, certificate of stocks in oil mills and the United Coconut Planters Bank, also qualify as beneficiaries.”

“Small coconut farmers’ organizations and cooperatives can also become beneficiaries of socio-economic projects,” the CLAIM added.

Marbella said “the question of control is very crucial especially that the money is now in the hands of the Aquino government. We don’t trust the Aquino government to exercise control over the coco levy funds. The government did not even contribute a single cent on the funds.”

For her part, Mylene Santoa, spokesperson of Pinag-Isang Lakas ng mga Magsasaka sa Quezon (Piglas-Quezon), challenged lawmakers that “if they are really sincere in addressing the plight of small coconut farmers, they should move for the abolition of the resicada system, and other deductions.”

“The cash distribution of the coco levy funds would be a great help for our family especially in the face of very low copra prices and so many unjust deductions like the 15 percent resicada,” Santoa, also coordinating body member of CLAIM, said.

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