Tillers back probe of palm oil imports

THE progressive peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng PIlipinas (KMP) and the claimants movement Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) today backed calls for Congress to probe the reported importation and selling of palm-based cooking oil by a sequestered oil mill.

The groups 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.

KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said “the reported selling and importation of palm oil by SPMC is not only anomalous but downright treasonous.”

“This shows that coco levy funds and assets, like the United Coconut Planters Bank, are continuously being mismanaged, in fact plundered, by corrupt bureaucrats and self-proclaimed representatives of small coconut farmers,” says Marbella, also CLAIM national coordinator.

“These oil mills were established using our money and is therefore owned by small coconut farmers. The return of all coco levy funds and assets to its rightful owners is long overdue,” says Marbella adding: “It is high-time that companies established using the coco levy funds be turned-over to farmers.”

Under the CLAIM’s “proposal for the disposition of the coco levy funds,” aside from cash distribution through social benefits like pension, medical and educational assistance, “all coco levy funds acquired assets, investments, and corporation shall be turned over to the Small Coconut Farmers Council (SCFC).”

The creation of SCFC aims to “directly manage and administer the recovered coco levy funds.”

“The SCFC shall directly manage the operations of the CIIF-Oil Mills Group, 14 Holding Companies, United Coconut Planters’ Bank, Cocolife, and other corporations acquired through the coco levy funds for the benefit of small coconut farmers,” the CLAIM proposal said.

“With the SCFC, small coconut farmers will have complete control over the coco levy funds and prevent the likes of NAPC secretary Joel Rocamora who did not contribute even a single cent to the funds and has no right to meddle over our money,” Marbella said.

“There will be no need for Aquino’s coco levy fund task force who has personal and political interests over small coconut farmers’ money,” says Marbella reiterating demands for the President to dismantle what he described as “coco levy fund mafia” headed by Rocamora.

Suarez said the matter was serious because it affects the lives of millions of coconut farmers. “The importation of palm oil that competes with coconut-based coconut oil is detrimental to the country’s coconut farmers now reeling from a sharp drop in copra prices,” he said.

“While small coconut farmers suffer from the very low prices of copra and other unjust exactions by unscrupulous copra traders like the resicada, the Aquino government’s importation policy continues to wreak havoc to the lives of millions of small coconut farmers,” said Marbella adding:

“We hope that this probe will pave the way for the turn-over to small coconut farmers of these coco oil mills and all assets acquired through the coco levy funds.”

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