Ex-Akbayan chief scheming to advance P1.6 B from coco funds

MORE than 1,000 farmers from Bicol, Quezon, Aurora and Cagayan provinces led by the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and the claimants movement Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) today stormed the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) office in Quezon City demanding the dismantling of what they described as the “coco levy fund mafia” referring to the Malacanang-created Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy Funds.

Former Akbayan president Joel Rocamora heads the “task force” that is pushing for the P11.17 billion five-year “Poverty Reduction Roadmap of the Coconut Industry” that includes the corruption-ridden “conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino  Program (4Ps),” and the failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER).

“The Palace-created coco levy fund ‘mafia’ is hell-bent in scheming to once again plunder small coconut farmers’ money,” says KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella.

Marbella, also CLAIM national coordinator, said “concerned government officials brought to our attention that Rocamora is advancing P1.6 billion from the coco levy funds for his anti-peasant poverty reduction roadmap of the coconut industry.”

“The nerve!” said Marbella adding: “We did not fight the dictatorship and continue to struggle to reclaim the coco levy funds only for Rocamora and his gang of thieves to once again steal our hard-earned money.”

“The coco levy funds were exacted from our sweat and blood. The money should be immediately returned to small coconut farmers and not to failed anti-peasant programs, like the CCT and CARPER,” he said adding: “The anti-peasant programs of the NAPC roadmap already have a regular budget. We smell something fishy from Rocamora’s scheme to advance P1.6 billion from the coco levy funds.”

“It seems they are beefing up not only their pockets but their party’s campaign chest,” Marbella accused referring to Akbayan party-list and the Senate-run of its former representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel.

“Aquino’s coco levy task force must be dismantled,” Marbella said.

In a dialogue earlier this month between CLAIM and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the commission said the Php56.5 billion from the 27 percent from San Miguel Corp. is deposited in escrow by the PCGG at the Bureau of Treasury (BTr).  The Php13.5 billion dividend earning is with the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) deposited as special drawing account (SDA) and earning 3.5% to 3.6% interest.

The groups are pushing for the immediate cash distribution of the coco levy funds in the form of “social benefits to small coconut farmers, like pension, medical, and educational benefits, among others.”

Both groups are also supporting the enactment of House Bill 3443 or the proposed Coconut Levy Funds Administration and Management Act filed by Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano which seeks to establish a council composed of coconut farmers themselves.

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