After an earlier veto, the measure that would establish a trust fund for coconut farmers from coco levy assets sequestered by the government is now a law.
Republic Act No. 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, Malacanang said.
The Trust Fund will manage around P75 billion in cash and assets for the benefits of the country's millions of coconuts farmers, which contributed for many years to grow the amount.
After then President Ferdinand Marcos was dislodged from power in 1986, local coconut farmers sought the assistance of the Presidential Commission on Good Government in filing court cases to refund their investment.
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.
The law creates a Trust Fund which will be "capitalized, managed, invested, utilized and accounted for" according to the provisions of the measure.
The Trust Fund will be maintained for 50 years under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan and to be "used for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry."
Upon the enactment of the law, the Bureau of Treasury will transfer P10 billion to the Trust Fund, and for succeeding years according to the following schedule:
Second year - P10 billion
Third year - P15 billion
Fourth year - P15 billion
Fifth year - P25 billion
The said fund will be augmented from proceeds of privatization or disposition of coconut levy assets remitted to the Treasury.
The fund will be utilized according to the plans and programs of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, which will be given P5 billion for implementation.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)will be strengthened to ensure the implementation of the plan.
It will have a Board composed of the Secretaries of Agriculture as chairperson, Finance and vice chairperson, Budget and Management, Science and Technology and Trade and Industry, and the administrator of the PCA as members.
Three members from the coconut farmers sector - one each from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao - will also be in the Board. The farmer representatives should own not more than five hectares of coconut farm in the last 10 years. They will be appointed by the President from a list of nominees.—LDF, GMA News