In a cruel twist of history, the coco levy funds plundered under the rule of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and the assets acquired through it, are once again at the hands of a Marcos. “This will be a grand litmus test for Marcos Jr. – whether he will genuinely return the coco levy fund to its rightful owners or he will plunder the monies once again in a very Marcosian way,” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos says. Another big question now for the upcoming administration – are the coco levy funds still intact?
Last June 2, Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 172 approving the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP), allowing the government to access the coco levy funds to rehabilitate, modernize and industrialize the industry comprised of at least 2.5 million coconut farmers. On June 20, Bongbong Marcos Jr. appointed himself as the temporary agriculture secretary, practically allowing himself full access to the multi-billion fund.
The coco levy fund now stands at P75 billion while the coco levy-acquired assets are valued at P111.3-billion based on the latest audit of the Commission on Audit. Overall, the coco levy fund and assets worth over P186 billion are at the ready disposal of Marcos Jr. as incoming President and agri chief.
According to the DA and the trust fund committee, P10 billion would be disbursed in the first year, P10 billion in the second, P15 billion each in the third and fourth year, and P25 billion and any other amount accruing, including interest, in the fifth year.
The coco levy funds were siphoned off from small coconut farmers via a series of presidential decrees from the 1970s under the dictatorial rule of Marcos Sr. It imposed taxes on every kilo of copra produced, supposedly for the development of the coconut industry. By 1983, up to P9.8 billion worth of funds were collected from the coconut levy. However, at least 81% of these were used by Marcos cronies like the late Danding Cojuangco Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile to personally acquire various assets. Danding in particular, bought the majority shares of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) using the coco levy funds, as affirmed by Sandiganbayan and Supreme Court rulings. In 2021 however, SC cleared Cojuangco of six remaining coco levy civil suits.
Republic Act (RA) 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act and the complementary Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan once again place the coco levy fund in the hands of handpicked bureaucrats and away from its real owners – coconut farmers.
“This is the same condition which enabled corrupt government officials under the then Marcos Sr. regime to personally benefit from the coco levy and establish oligarchies,” Ramos said.
KMP has earlier lamented the lack of genuine farmer representation in the trust fund committee dominated by Duterte’s economic managers from the DOF. RA 11524 will also reconstitute the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) with six government heads and three token farmer representatives to be appointed by the president.
“The creation of the trust fund and the development plan that are not under the direct control and management of small coconut farmers and their organizations, despite all the flowery promises and platitudes, will be nothing but the continued plunder and deprivation of the coco funds from the coco levy scam victims,” Ramos concluded. ###