President Rodrigo Duterte has called on Congress to pass the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund bill —a measure that will return the taxes imposed on coconut farmers from 1971 to 1983 which were invested in businesses by certain individuals.
In his fifth State of the Nation Address, Duterte also announced a P66-billion stimulus package for the agriculture sector under the plant, plant, plant program as part of the response to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
“We must utilize the coconut levy for the benefit and development of our coconut industry. I urge everybody, ito ‘yung pera na nakuha dun sa sequestered [ng gobyerno] ni Marcos. Itong pera, malaki ito, gagamitin ito for the welfare of the farmers,” Duterte said.
“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 added.
In February 2019, Duterte vetoed the coco levy bill creating a P100-billion trust fund for the benefit of some 3.5 million coconut farmers.
In his speech, the President said identifying the beneficiaries of the fund can be tough because a long time has passed since the coco levy was collected from farmers.
“The problem is, we can no longer trace who the farmers are,” Duterte said.
“Hindi na natin malaman sino ang may-ari. Congress should try to sort out the best way the money can be utilized. I will not make a suggestion. I will let Congress to decide,” he added.
In vetoing the bill, Duterte had said that the measure lacked the vital safeguards and may be violative of the Constitution.
Five months after his veto, Duterte sought for the bill's passage in his fourth SONA.—LDF, GMA News