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Unanimous SC vote awards coco levy shares in SMC to coco farmers' fund

January 24, 2012 10:23pm
The Supreme Court –By a unanimous 11 – 0 vote—upheld the Sandiganbayan decision to award a 24 percent block of shares in San Miguel Corporation to the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF), which is also known as the coco levy fund.
 
SC court administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez confirmed the ruling.    
 
Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Diosdado Peralta inhibited from the case because they were members of the Sandiganbayan when it was decided. Justice Arturo Brion is on official leave of absence.
 
Senior Justice Antonio Carpio inhibited because he was one of the petitioners in a case back when he was the chief presidential legal counsel of former President Fidel Ramos. 
 
The coco levy shares consists of a 753,848,312 block of shares valued at about P100 billion. The shares were purchased using coco levy funds collected from coconut farmers from 1973 to 1982 and deposited in the United Coconut Planters Bank where SMC chairman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco was the president and director.

An estimated P8 billion in cash dividends have accrued to the San Miguel shares, and Commission on Good Government chief Andres Bautista said in a statement Monday that many coconut farmers who paid the levy that was used to buy those shares should be given the opportunity to reap the fruits of the coconut fund.
 
In 1986, the coco levy shares were sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on suspicion that the shares were illegally acquired by the associates of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
 
In April 12 last year, the high court declared that the 20-percent stake of Cojuangco in SMC is not part of the coconut levy funds.
 
In a separate ruling, SC also said the conversion of the 24 percent SMC shares in the names of CIIF and its companies from common shares to preferred shares preserved the value of the 753.8 million SMC shares.
 
President Benigno S. Aquino III had earlier ordered a task force to ascertain how the coco levy funds can be used for the benefit of coconut farmers and the coconut industry, which has recently experienced a surge in exports.
 
2011 exports of coconut were expected to hit $2 billion on strong global demand. The National Statistics Office said that its January-to-September data showed coconut oil exports reached $1.17 billion. Dessicated coconut exports reached nearly $217 million while copra meal was $46.42 million.
 
Coconut juice exports receipts at $8.366 million were not yet significant enough to be disaggregated from other coconut products.
 
To sustain the pace of growth, the government plans to plant 13 million coconut trees nationwide starting next year and fertilize 20 million senile trees. These moves are seen to increase coconut production to three million metric tons starting in 2012. — ELR/KG/HS, GMA News
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