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Solon confident on Palace OK of coconut levy trust fund bill

THE House of Representatives is optimistic that the bill creating the coconut levy trust fund will be signed into law by President Duterte this time around.

House Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairman Wilfrido Mark Enverga said the concerns on the first coconut levy bill that President Duterte vetoed last year have been addressed under the new measure, which the House approved on third and final reading earlier this week.

“We are very careful in crafting this new version of the bill so we are confident that we have resolved everything,” said Enverga, who earlier endorsed for plenary approval House Bill 8136, or the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act.

“We ensured that there is a limitation of 99 years. Secondly, with regards to the broad powers given to PCA [Philippine Coconut Authority], we addressed this by delineating powers of implementing authority to the newly constituted Board of PCA.”

Enverga said the House bill also established a Trust Fund Management Committee, composed of the Department of Budget and Management and Department of Justice.

Enverga thanked Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for finding ways to coordinate with the Executive department to ensure that the bill will reach the table of the President for his consideration. HB 8136 is one of his priority measures of Velasco.

The Speaker earlier lauded his colleagues in the House for the approval of the said measure. He also looks forward to its passage into law and help change the lives of poor coconut farmers and their beneficiaries.

HB 8136 is expected to benefit around 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut-producing provinces, who own not more than 5 hectares of farmland. It aims to increase the income of coconut farmers, alleviate poverty and promote social equity, and rehabilitate and modernize the industry toward farm productivity.

With this bill, Enverga said the government will be able to invigorate the coconut farming sector by investing in the industry itself.

Enverga said the bill seeks to consolidate all assets and benefits emanating from the coconut levy, and creating a Trust Fund, to be used to rehabilitate and modernize the coconut industry for the ultimate benefit of coconut farmers and farmworkers.

He said the utilization of the Trust Fund created under this proposal shall be in accordance with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan which shall be prepared by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), in consultation with all the stakeholders concerned, and approved by the President of the Philippines. The Plan shall be subject to mandatory annual review.

Under the bill, the lawmaker said the Plan shall set the directions and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the coconut industry within 99 years.

Enverga, citing the Bureau of the Treasury, said the cash component of coco levy assets now stands at P76.4 billion as December 2020.

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