MANILA - Voting 221-6-0, the House of Representatives on Monday approved on final reading House Bill 8136 creating a coco levy trust fund.
House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the bill seeks to let poor coconut farmers benefit from taxes collected from them decades ago, now worth at least P76 billion in assets.
The bill declares the coconut levy assets as a trust fund and provides for its management and utilization.
It authorizes the Privatization and Management Office to dispose of the coconut levy assets for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.
“This is a monumental day for more than three million coconut farmers, who have long been denied of the fund that rightfully belongs to them,” Velasco said.
The bill is expected to benefit around 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut-producing provinces, who own not more than five hectares of farmland.
Aside from increasing the income of coconut farmers and alleviating them from poverty, promoting social equity, the bill aims as well to rehabilitate and modernize the industry towards farm productivity.
Under the proposed legislation, the trust fund will be maintained for 99 years under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan to be formulated by the Philippine Coconut Authority.
The PCA will be mandated to submit the plan to the Office of the President within 120 days of the effectivity of the law. The PCA will also be mandated to complete the Coconut Farmers Registry.
The Department of Finance will be designated as the manager of the trust fund.
The bill provides for the utilization of the trust fund through the following allocations:
- Shares Services Program - 10%
- Farm improvement through diversification and or intercropping such as projects on livestock, dairy, poultry, coffee and cacao production - 10%
- Development of hybrid coconut seed farms and nurseries to encourage self sufficiency - 10%
- Empowerment of coconut farmers organizations and their cooperatives - 10%
- Scholarship program - 10%
- Health and medical program -10%
- Credit provision through the DBP and LBP - 10%
- Infrastructure program - 10%
- Training of farmers in farm schools through TESDA - 10%
- Planting and replanting - 10%
The approval of the bill paves the way for Senate action on the measure.
Velasco said in a statement last week that “the passage of the bill would be a fitting Christmas gift" to the expected beneficiaries.
The Senate last October unanimously approved on final reading its version of the bill.
All 22 senators present in the October 5 session voted in favor of Senate Bill No. 1396 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act that seeks to return taxes collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos dictatorship and create a trust fund for them through the sale of coco levy assets in the country in the next half decade.