Duterte urges Congress to pass ''more responsive'' Coco Levy Fund bill
After vetoing the Coco Levy Fund bill, President Rodrigo Duterte again urged the members of the Congress to pass a “more responsive” version of the bill.
“I also have not forgotten my commitment to uplift the lives (of) coconut farmers and further develop the coconut industry until the urgent- through the urgent utilization of the Coconut Levy Fund. That is 100 million,” Duterte said during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday.
“I once again urge both Houses of Congress to pass a more responsive version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund to ensure the accelerated utilization of coco levy funds for the well-being and empowerment of the coconut farmers,” he said.
Last February, Duterte explained he vetoed the measure because of its lacked on “vital safeguard” that will avoid the repetition of the past mistakes and it may be “violative of the Constitution”.
The bill seeks to create a P100-billion trust fund for coconut farmers.
Duterte explained he is afraid the fund could “disproportionately benefit wealthy coconut farm owners” because of the absence of a limit on the covered land area for entitlement of benefits.
In his SONA, Duterte said he is having a hard time looking for an “honest man” who will handle the money.
“Until now I cannot find (someone). Look, it is really hard to look for an honest man. I must admit it,” he said.
“This coco fund, this is what was left by (former President Ferdinand) Marcos- the levy fund. This is sacred money. This money was taken out of the pockets of the Filipinos arbitrarily… you cannot just give to anyone. You can no longer trace the truthful owner of the land,” Duterte added.
Duterte admitted that he is still looking for the money.
“I will not act on that until I find the money. I have yet --- I have yet to look for the money. Until now I’m still looking. I cannot find because this is a huge amount… you know, if you assign a corrupt idiot there,” Duterte said.
He recommended depositing the money and letting it remain as a remembrance to the people who lost their (money) during the Marcos regime.
“You invest the money. Maybe it will reach more than 100 billion (pesos). Place it on the trust fund for the government. It’s about 5 billion (pesos)… (For) the improvement of replanting of coconut,” he explained.
On other agriculture matters, Duterte said the government shall continue to invest in the countryside through agricultural programs that will increase the productivity and income of small farmers and fisherfolk.
“We shall ensure the full implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law, including the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. This will safeguard the livelihood of small farmers through the provisions of modern farm equipment and machineries, seeds and credit, and extension services,” he added.
In an ambush interview, Duterte mentioned he will complete his land reform program.
“I’m going to complete the land reform whether the land owners like it or not because there are still tenants who are not in possession but the owners are still --- the owners of the land control the --- the produce and everything,” he told reporters.
“So I’m serving notice that I have to implement the law. The law is the law. So those tenants who are still not in possession (of the land) must be placed there as beneficiaries,” he said.
Duterte also recognized the urgent need to ensure sustainability and availability of resources and development of alternative ones.
“In this regard, I trust that (Energy) Secretary (Alfonso) Cusi shall fast-track also the development of renewable energy sources, and reduce dependence on the traditional energy sources such as coal,” he said. Ella Dionisio/DMS