Duterte signs coconut farmers trust fund law

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President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday signed the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act which seeks to establish a fund to benefit farmers and develop the coconut industry. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday signed the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act which seeks to establish a fund to benefit farmers and develop the coconut industry.

Within a year upon the effectivity of the law, any person with coconut levy assets is directed to transfer the assets to the Trust Fund. Coco levy assets refer to any property acquired using levies, taxes, charges and other fees related to the sale of copra rececada or other coconut products traced decades ago.

The collection of levy from coconut farmers' produce started in 1971 under the term of then President Ferdinand Marcos. After the Marcos regime fell, various cases were filed seeking to give the fund’s control to coconut farmers. The Supreme Court in 2012 declared the coco levy funds as public funds.

The law mandates that the use of the funds will be according to a development plan prepared by the Philippine Coconut Authority. The agency shall consult coconut farmers and their organizations, industry associations, civil society groups and concerned government agencies in the utilization of the money.

The plan shall set the direction to increase productivity and income of farmers, alleviate poverty as well as rehabilitate and modernize the sector within 50 years, the measure said.

Immediately upon the enactment of the law, the Bureau of Treasury shall place ₱10 billion to the trust fund and augment the amount in succeeding years following this schedule:

Second year: ₱10 billion

Third year: ₱15 billion

Fourth year: ₱15 billion

Fifth year: ₱25 billion

The money should be allocated for development of hybrid farms (20%); training of farmers (8%); research (5%); crop insurance (4%); intercropping with livestock, dairy, poultry, coffee, cacao (10%); shared facilities for processing (10%); empowerment of cooperatives (5%); credit programs (10%); infrastructure (10%), scholarship program for farmers and their families (8%) and health and medical programs for farmers and their families (10%).