Siquijor lawmaker Rep. Ramon “Rav” Rocamora today expressed optimism that President Rodrigo Duterte will certify the Coco Levy Trust Fund bill as urgent despite not mentioning it during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“I believe the president is a man of his word. He didn’t have to mention the Coco Levy Trust Fund bill but I’m certain that it is among his top agenda,” according to Rocamora.
“The President’s sympathies lie with the coconut farmers and the coconut sector. His SONA speech outlined his plans for real change for the country. Hopefully, change will also come to the lives of coconut farmers who have been waiting for decades to benefit from the funds that are theirs to begin with,” Rocamora added.
Daunting challenge ahead
Rocamora admits the daunting challenge of ensuring support for the measure despite the numerous bills that the 17th Congress will have to take on.
“The next three years will be very busy for Congress. We will have to work on changes to the constitution on top of other equally important bills such as the Freedom of Information, Land Use bill, and the Rationalization of fiscal incentives. Sana may panahon rin for the passage of the Coco Levy Trust fund,” according to Rocamora.
“Confident naman ako with the leadership of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. I think he will give the Coco Levy Trust Fund bill sufficient space for deliberation and debate. From there, it is up to us inside the House and the pressure from the farmers’ groups and civil society to ensure its passage,” Rocamora added.
Rocamora is the author of House Bill 301 or the Coconut Levy Trust Fund Bill. The bill seeks to allot P 10 billion as an initial jump-start fund for projects and programs for social protection of coconut farmers and the revitalization of the coconut industry. The bill also creates a Trust Fund Committee with strong representation from coconut farmers which will manage the fund guided by a Coco-Roadmap.
In 2014, the Supreme Court issued its final entry of judgment with regard to the 24% SMC-CIIF shares now valued at about P74 billion. The same court decision also ruled that the funds should only be used for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the coconut industry. A substantial part of the fund was used by San Miguel Corporation Chairman Danding Cojuangco to purchase the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) which was then used to buy a large stake in San Miguel Corporation.