Veteran lawmaker and senatorial candidate Sen. Ralph Recto stated during an interview with the media that one of the “unfinished” business of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution is how to plow back the billions in coco levy funds to the millions of farmers who paid them.
The Senate President Pro-Tempore stated that “Thirty years have passed and the farmers are still waiting for the money, the fund is still frozen, and the implementation of the executive orders mandating its use has been stopped by the courts,” Recto said in a statement.
“Patay na ang mga nagbayad ng levy, patay na rin ang mga puno ng niyog na pinagkuhanan ng copra, pati yung proseso ng kung papaano ibalik ang levy sa sector ng niyog sa kasalukuyan ay mukhang patay na rin,” he said.
Sen. Ralph Recto likened the coco levy funds “to a frozen buko salad which farmers can see but can’t eat.” In order to make use of the controversial coco levy fund, the government must push the reboot button to restart the process while putting more regular funds to rejuvenate the coconut industry, especially in the 41,662 hectares in Yolanda-hit areas where 34 million trees were destroyed.
Based upon a government agency estimate, 90 percent of the 3.4 million coconut industry workers are poor and 44 million coconut trees, or one in seven, are old and must be replaced. Sen. Recto also revealed that aggravating the poverty of the court-ordered freeze is the government’s coconut replanting budget.
The Philippine Coconut Authority’s (PCA) budget subsidy went down from P4.1 billion in 2015 and P2.4 billion in 2014 and further went down to just P1.27 billion this year. The coco levy fund was imposed on copra sales purportedly to raise capital investment for the coconut industry through Republic Act 6260.
By 1986, Recto said, the total amount collected from the various coconut levies from 1971 to 1982 amounted to P9.7 billion. The money was later sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), while the total amount of coco levy fund released for public dispensation was estimated to be worth P77 billion including interest. The amount was less compared to the estimates of Sen. Rector that the present value of the coco levy assets was in the neighborhood of P100 billion.