MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday signed a measure establishing the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, in a bid to efficiently use the multibillion-peso coconut levy fund to benefit over 2 million coconut farmers and the local coconut industry.
Republic Act No. 11524 aims to create a coconut farmers and industry development plan that will compel the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to consult with coconut farmers and their organizations, industry associations, and several government agencies stakeholders in the coconut industry, among others, to implement policies for the "development and rehabilitation" within 50 years.
PCA should also be guided with the following objectives for the development plan:
- Increased productivity and income of coconut farmers
- Poverty alleviation, education, and social equity
- Rehabilitation and modernization of the coconut industry towards farm productivity
The development plan must also include a national program for the following:
- Community-based enterprises
- Social protection for coconut farmers, farm workers, and their families
- Coconut farmers organization and development
- Innovative research projects
- Processing of coconut and downstream products
Duterte earlier vetoed the measure in February 2019 over fears it may be "unconstitutional" and “lacked safeguards against abuses." On the same month, Duterte vetoed its twin bill on the reconstitution of the PCA.
In his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte urged Congress to pass the measure after Malacañang sent inputs to avoid another veto.
The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos established a coco levy fund taxing farmers between 1973 and 1982. The fund was allegedly used by his cronies for investments for their personal gain.