Farmers welcome House probe on SPMC’s ‘anomalous selling and importation’ of palm-oil

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COCONUT levy funds claimants and beneficiaries in Southern Tagalog welcome Congress initiative to look into the alleged anomalies in importation and selling of palm-based cooking oil by a sequestered oil mill.

Nestor Villanueva, regional coordinator of the claimants group Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM)-Southern Tagalog, however, challenged the Lower House to prove that this Congress-led probe would not be just another pre-campaign period stunt by representatives vying for reelection.

“Probe is good, but a single oil mill’s treacherous practice is just a drop in a barrel of anomalies involving coconut levy fund,” Villanueva said in a statement today.

Villanueva issued the statement after Minority Leader and Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez said he “will call for an immediate stop” to what he described as “anomalous selling and importation” of palm by San Pablo Manufacturing Corp. (SPMC), one of the six oil mills in the country acquired or established through the coco levy funds.

“We would want to expect sincerity from the gentlemen in Congress in shedding light into the scandalous transactions of San Pablo Manufacturing Corp. (SPMC) but to make us believe that they really are after the truth they must pass House Bill # 3443.”

HB 3443 o the Coconut Levy Funds Administration and Management Bill proposed by Anakpawis Partylist would enable the people to discover the vastness of wealth created through the coconut farmers’ funds.

“Coco levy issue is a labyrinth of anomalies and scandals. We must examine this in a broader perspective and uncover the entire maze; else we might bump into the Minotaurs well-entrenched in the government.”

CLAIM-ST demands that the coco levy funds be returned to their rightful owners and enable the small coconut farmers to decide for themselves the disposition of the funds according to a consensus among claimants and beneficiaries through the Small Coconut Farmers Council (SCFC).

“Farmers know best,” Villanueva retorted when asked why they are against President Noynoy Aquino’s plans on the disposition of the funds.

“That’s simply stating that first; we are very doubtful of Mr. Aquino’s record in looking after the welfare of farmers and; second, that’s our money, we ought to have the right to decide how to spend it,”

CLAIM consultations in different coconut areas in the region gathered support for the group’s proposal to use the coco levy funds to provide coconut farmers and their families cash benefits alongside socio-economic projects.

Villanueva also clarified that CLAIM-ST does not exclude members from political parties identified with the Aquino government.

“Our aim is to deliver justice to coconut farmers from whom these funds were extracted several decades ago regardless of their political beliefs,” Villanueva said after clarifying that CLAIM, as an alliance of farmers organizations, federations, coconut planters associations and individual claimants and beneficiaries of coco levy funds, encourages other organizations and parties to support the CLAIM proposal.

Small coconut farmers recently staged a protest-dialog at the main office of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) in Quezon City to urge Secretary Joel Rocamora to abandon his agency’s attempt to meddle with the P70 billion coco levy funds.

Violence erupted between farmers and state security forces when Rocamora refused the dialog and CLAIM leaders were not allowed to enter the public building.

“The confrontation at the NAPC office last Thursday was an isolated incident. While CLAIM does not tolerate disorder among our members, we demand the Aquino government that the legitimate concerns of the claimants and their right to peaceably assemble should not be compromised,” Villanueva concluded.

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