Caritas demands ‘pro-farmer’ version of Coco Trust Fund Law

Caritas demands ‘pro-farmer’ version of Coco Trust Fund Law

Fr. Edwin Gariguez of Caritas Philippines with leaders of some coconut farmers’ groups during a press conference in Manila, Sept. 3, 2018. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By CBCP News

September 4, 2018

Manila, Philippines

Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the Catholic Church, demanded for the revision of the bicameral conference committee version of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas, said that the version passed by the bicameral conference committee “is unjustly putting the small coconut farmers in the disadvantage”.

“The fund basically came from the farmers. Therefore it is but just that we demand that it benefit the coconut farmers in full,” he said in a press conference in Manila on Sept. 3.

Lawyer Christian Monsod, Legal Counsel of Task Force Magniniyog (TFM), said that “the Trust Fund Act has dismantled the original law to the detriment of the farmers.”

The Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act in gist provides for the following:

  • reconstitution of the Philippine Coconut Authority Board
  • lifting of the 5 hectare condition in the definition of coconut farmer beneficiaries
  • 25 year limit to the disbursement of the coco levy fund, 4] automatic privatization of coco levy assets and
  • unclear treatment of pending cases on other coco levy funds and assets

According to Jun Pascua of Pambansang Katipunan ng Makabayang Mambubukid (PKMM), “the law is not what President Rodrigo Duterte promised, and it is not what we dreamed of”.

“It is already an injustice for us, legitimate coconut farmers, to wait for decades to benefit from the coco levy fund. It is more unfair for the government to totally remove our right to the money which belonged originally to us,” he said.

Caritas and the coconut farmers’ groups have vowed to use all means to surface the demands of more than 20 million coconut farmers with the legislators and President Duterte himself, and make the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act truly a law for the poorest and most vulnerable coconut farmers.

Last week, the Senate has ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the measure creating the P100-billion coconut levy trust fund.

Caritas in March called on senators to junk provisions of the bill that would deny farmers’ rights to decide on the coco levy fund.

Gariguez said that farmers must be given their rights on how to utilize these coco levies.