Bills on coconut fund, GAA 2020, Bayanihan 2 fast-tracked

File photo shows the Batasang Pambansa Complex

To fast-track the transmittal of three priority measures to the Palace, the House of Representatives on Wednesday adopted the Senate versions of the Coconut Farmers and Development Trust Fund Act, the bill extending the validity of the 2020 General Appropriations Act and the measure extending the appropriations under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act.

These three measures will thus skip the bicameral conference process and can now be transmitted to President Duterte for signature.

The proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act seeks to create a trust fund for coconut farmers in the country through the selling of assets procured through the coco levy fund.

Under the Senate version, the government is mandated to turn over P75 billion cash of the coconut levy assets in the next five years to create a trust fund for coconut farmers in the country.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform and principal sponsor of the bill, said the passage of the measure would benefit the approximately 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut-producing provinces owning not more than five hectares who belong to the poorest sector in the country.

Villar said that immediately after the enactment of the bill, the Bureau of the Treasury shall transfer P10 billion to the trust fund; P10 billion in the second year; P15 billion, third year; P15 billion, fourth year; and P25 billion, fifth year.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives also adopted the Senate version of the bill extending the validity of Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, and RA 11465, or the General Appropriations Act of 2020, to ensure programs are fully implemented and public funds for aid reach intended beneficiaries.

The Department of Budget and Management reported that the Bayanihan 2 Act, which shall expire on December 19, 2020, still has unreleased appropriations.

The DBM reported that it has so far released a total of P105.775 billion.

The legislation, signed on September 11, provides the resources needed to assist Filipinos adversely affected by the pandemic, boost economic recovery, and strengthen the fight against Covid-19.

It finances various government programs, including the implementation of a cash-for-work program, provision of economic relief to industries, improvement of the national healthcare system, and procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, among other interventions.

Additionally, unused funds from the 2020 GAA are also set to revert to the National Treasury when the legislation expires on December 31, 2020.

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