Farmers warn Duterte, DA: don’t plunder coco levy fund

Farmers say they will not allow another plunder of the coco levy fund especially as President Duterte once again made clear his intention to never return the multibillion coco levy fund to small coconut farmers. 

“Duterte’s statement in his SoNA shows his real intention to never return the coco levy fund to coconut farmers. His pronouncement that “we can no longer trace who are the farmers of yesterday…Hindi na natin malaman kung sino ang may-ari.” is a complete lie. Coconut farmers are not incidental beneficiaries of the fund. The levy came from the blood, sweat, and tears of coconut farmers who are the rightful owners of the fund now estimated to be more than P100-billion. All 3.5 million coconut farmers have the right to claim their share from the coco levy fund,” says Danilo Ramos, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.  

“Year after year, Duterte keeps mentioning the coco levy fund in his SoNA, but he has no real intention to alleviate the plight of coconut farmers as he staunchly refuses to return the coco levy fund to farmers. In 2018, he even vetoed the then approved Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund because his economic managers rejected any farmer-representation to the Trust Fund Council. The Duterte administration wants to plunder and corrupt anew the coco levy fund.”

Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar affirmed that under the proposed coconut industry roadmap, the government will use only the interest of the coco levy fund for investments and agri-businesses in the coconut industry. The principal fund will remain intact and under the control of private fund managers. “Walang direktang pakinabang dito ang mga magsasaka sa niyugan. Wala mahahawakan ang mga magniniyog na kahit singko o kusing mula sa pondo ng coco levy,” the KMP leader said. 

The peasant group added that “for almost half a century, small coconut farmers have waited in vain to benefit from the coco levy fund. “The Marcos dictatorship forcibly extracted the levy from small coconut farmers and used the fund to enrich and reward cronies. We will not allow a repeat of history,” Ramos added.  

Coconut farmers suffer from consistently low copra prices and unjust trading practices throughout the years. Since 2019, copra prices have ranged from Php14 to Php16 per kilogram. Coconut farmers shoulder all the production costs and losses, leaving them with barely enough income. Coconut farmers were also visibly neglected in the government’s COVID-19 Social Amelioration Program. ”We will assert the return of the coco levy fund to coconut farmers,” Ramos concluded. ###

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