Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto prodded the Duterte administration on Wednesday to fast-track disposition of multibillion-peso coco-levy assets through “a win-win solution” for coconut farmers.
“My proposal is for the government to sell all coco-levy assets, under a process that is transparent and advantageous to the farmers,” Recto said, suggesting that “liquidating the assets will enlarge the trust fund.”
The senator said that the government must “get out of the coconut business because its record in running for-profit corporations has been unblemished by success.”
“It has no business bottling cooking oil. If we create a trust committee that will be allowed to pick investments, run corporations, disburse funds, then we will merely be copying what [former President Ferdinand] E. Marcos did with the CIIF,” Recto said, referring to the Marcos-era Coconut Industry Investment Fund.
“I want bigger funds for coconut farmers,” Recto said, noting that the original proposal is limited to annual interest on top of a start-up development fund. “My proposal is to match trust income with guaranteed appropriated budgetary support to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in the amount of P10 billion.”
Suggesting that “faster and transparent disposition of the coco-levy will ensure win-win solutions for coco farmers,” Recto said no one is disputing the need to plow back the coco-levy collections to the people, noting that “the divergence is on how to do it.”
Recto aired a wish to see a quicker disbursement schedule, which will disburse bigger amounts in a shorter time. “If the [coconut] industry is in ICU, it should get a massive infusion, not the perpetual drip-drip of funds. Why prolong the agony of farmers when we can have a shorter recovery period for an industry in distress?”
The senator also voiced hopes of coconut farmers for “a simpler and more cohesive administration of the trust fund, by one body dominated by farmers, in which they will have the biggest say, instead of creating two layers of bureaucracy, which will lead to dissonance.”
Recto, in a news statement, also endorsed the expansion of the PCA’s membership to nine, “six of whom will be farmers, and three from the government, including the secretaries of agriculture, finance and budget.”
He, likewise, suggested that the PCA also be given expanded powers to: ratify and veto the disposition of coco-levy assets, only when such is disadvantageous to the government; serve as a trust committee; and draft the industry road map.
“Why create two agencies, when one agency can do the job with a one-stop shop? The powers of the proposed trust committee can be included in the strengthened PCA,” the senator added.