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House expects newly signed coco levy law will benefit 3.5M farmers

The House of Representatives on Saturday expressed optimism that the newly signed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act would finally benefit the 3.5 million coconut farmers in the county -- after decades of waiting.

In a statement in behalf of House members, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing into law Republic Act 11524, saying that the trust fund will finally "allow farmers to directly benefit from the multi-billion-peso coconut levy funds collected during the Marcos era."

As one of the principal authors, Velasco said the law aims to help around 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut-producing provinces who own not more than five hectares of coco-farmland.

Also, he said that it aims to "increase the income of coconut farmers, alleviate poverty and promote social equity, and rehabilitate and modernize the industry towards farm productivity."

Further, he said that under the new law, the trust fund will be maintained for 50 years under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan to be formulated by the Philippine Coconut Authority.

RA 11524 mandates the Bureau of Treasury to transfer P10 billion to the trust fund in the first year; P10 billion in the second year; P15 billion in the third year; P15 billion in the fourth year; and P25 billion during the fifth year.

Some P5 billion from the trust fund will be used upon enactment of the law for programs such as planting and replanting of hybrid coconut seedlings, training of coconut farmers and their families, among others, the statement added.

After an earlier veto, President Duterte on Friday signed RA 11524.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that at least P71-billion worth of coconut levy funds that had been used to purchase shares in San Miguel Corporation during the Marcos years belong to the government and as such, should be used solely for the benefit of coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry. —LBG, GMA News