MANILA - The Senate on Tuesday began debating on a bill that would create a trust fund coconut farmers in the country through the selling of assets procured through the coco levy fund.
Under Senate Bill No. 1396 or the "Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act," the government will be mandated to sell coconut levy assets in the next 5 years to create a trust fund for the 2.4 million coconut farmers in the country.
"These (coco levy assets) are not giving income... I am against holding them for free, without getting any income," said Sen. Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture.
"I don't care if they sell it cheap or sell it high... Sell it all, get the proceeds, put it in a trust fund and give the proceeds to coconut farmers," she said.
The proposed trust fund will be used for the following programs:
- Shared facilities for processing, ten percent (10 percent)
- Farm improvement through diversification and/or intercropping (10 percent
- Development of hybrid coconut seed farms and nurseries, to encourage self-sufficiency (10 percent)
- Empowerment of coconut farmer organization and their cooperatives (10 percent)
- Scholarship program (10 percent)
- Health and medical program (10 percent)
- Credit provision through the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) (10 percent)
- Infrastructure development, ten percent (10 percent)
- Training of farmers in farm schools thru the Technological Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) (10 percent)
- Planting and replanting (10 percent)
"It's not anymore getting profit from it. It's about getting our money from them," she said.
"Pagbili na lang lahat 'yan at gawing pera," she said.
Villar - who has been pushing for the development of the agriculture sector - has been accused by several netizens of selling farm lands in favor of the expansion of her family's real estate empire.
The Villar family owns Vista Land and Camella Homes, and also owns several malls and retail spaces across the country.
But the senator said that she is more concerned about the plight of millions of coconut farmers in 67 provinces across the country.
"The coconut farmers are the poorest in the country. They earn only about P1,500 a month. This bill will help them," she said.
Villar said the Senate is better off passing a bill that would immediately help farmers than waiting for the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to resolve cases of the Marcos' ill-gotten wealth, including the coco levy fund which was allegedly misused by the late dictator and his cronies in the 1970s.
"If we wait for PCGG, it would take a lifetime," Villar said.
Congress passed a similar measure last year, but President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the measure, citing the measure's alleged lack of "vital safeguards."