Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday expressed confidence that the coco levy bill would finally get President Rodrigo Duterte's signature this time after the latter urged Congress to prioritize it during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).
"We are confident that it will already be enacted into law, given the President’s support," Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, said in a statement.
She said the utilization of the coco levy for the benefit of over 3.5 million coconut farmers in the Philippines is "long overdue."
"The bill was re-filed with some modifications, taking into consideration the inputs being suggested by the executive branch of government so it will not be vetoed again," Villar, principal sponsor of the bill in the upper chamber, said.
In February 2019, Duterte vetoed the coco levy bill which sought to create a P100-billion trusts fund for coconut farmers. Malacanang said it lacked mechanisms for checks and balances, making it prone to corruption.
Five months after the said veto, Duterte asked Congress to prioritize the measure during his 4th SONA.
The same call has been made in his latest SONA on Monday.
"I urge both Houses of Congress the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund. Tulungan natin ang ating mga magsasaka na. Pag hindi, mawawala ‘yan, bilyon ‘yan. Diyos ko po," Duterte said.
The estimated P105-billion coco levy fund in cash and assets were from the additional tax collections imposed to coconut farmers in the Philippines under the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
These had been allegedly invested in enterprises for the personal interests of the late dictator and his cronies. —LDF, GMA News