Farmers propose for establishment of ‘coco trust fund’ to help ailing industry

By Jade D. Miguel

MANILA, July 1 (PNA) — Representatives from the coconut farmers sector nationwide gathered for a unity conference on Tuesday in UP Diliman to discuss updates pertaining to the proposed measure for the establishment of a “coco trust fund”, which they will present to Malacanang.

The proposed “An Act to Spur Rural Development in the Coconut Sector by Establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund, providing for the Management Thereof, and for Other Purposes” or more commonly known as the “Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund Act,” aims to use the coco levy funds for the development of the ailing coconut industry.

One of the compositions of the proposed “Trust Fund” is the initial capital amounting to P73 billion that will be sourced from the block shares of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund–San Miguel Corporation (CIIF-SMC).

Moreover, the conveyed and transferred assets from the recovered assets of coco levy, as well as grants, donation and other legal channeling of funds will be directly funneled to the Trust Fund.

The coco farmers sector also proposed for the retention of the trust fund’s “perpetual character” which means that the Trust Fund will benefit and will be utilized by the small coconut farmers in an “indefinite” period.

They opt for the aforementioned version of the Coconut Trust Fund, which differ to that of the Department of Finance (DOF) version wherein the Trust Fund can be used by the farmer beneficiaries at any of the programs they wish as long as they are able to utilize the fund until 2016, as noted by Jose Faustino of the Coconut Industry Reform Movement.

According to the farmers, the Trust Fund would be used for the development of the coconut industry and its farmers through the funding of several programs and projects that would directly benefit small coconut farmers, increase the production of coconut and coconut-based products, and programs focused on the enterprise development.

The nature of the proposed Trust Fund are the following: the income from the principal generated by the selling of assets of the Trust Fund shall be incorporated to the principal amount of trust fund; and only the income, interest and monetary benefit of the principal will be used for the programs and projects as per the decision of the committee.

A Committee of Coconut Farmers would be established that will be composed of the President of the Philippines who will serve as the Committee Chair; four representatives from the government — the Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Finance (DOF), and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General; two representatives from the financial and banking sector; six representatives from the organization of small coconut farmers; and two representatives from the civil society organizations (CSOs).

Among the functions of the said committee are the decision making on the disposition, utilization and allocation of the Trust Fund through the creation of rules and regulations; drafting of policies for the investment and asset management; and the accomplishment of oversight functions and monitoring of the implementation of the projects and programs by and for the small coconut farmers.

On the other hand, former Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada, who filed the proposed Coco Trust Fund Bill in the 15th Congress, said he expects unity among the coconut farmers sector and unified understanding on what concerns they would like to raise and be included in the executive order that they are urging Malacanang to issue while awaiting for Congress’ approval on the proposed measure.

The Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund bill was filed on May 12, 2014 at the House of Representatives and on May 19, 2014 at the Senate. (PNA)