Senate OKs coconut levy bill on 2nd reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 28) - The Senate has approved on second reading a bill which would establish a coconut farmers and industry trust fund or coconut levy fund.

President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed last year the coconut levy fund citing the need for stronger safeguards in the disbursement of funds.

Under Senate Bill No. 1396, the trust fund will be maintained for 99 years under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, and will be used for the benefit of coconut farmers and development of the industry.

“The plan shall also include strategic and inclusive training programs dedicated for coconut farmers based on a comprehensive review of existing training programs,” read the bill. “Programs relating to planting, replanting, fertilization, research, and development, market promotion, farm-to-market roads, and direct lending, shall be funded through regular appropriations.”

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will manage and approve the disbursements of the trust fund.

The proposed measure provides that all government agencies holding coco levy funds and/or assets shall transfer monies to the trust fund within five years.

Upon the enactment of this act, the Bureau of the Treasury shall transfer P5-billion to the trust fund.

The bill also states that the amount in the trust fund for disposition by the PCA and the Development Plan shall not be lower than P5-billion.

Furthermore, the bill also seeks to amend the composition of the PCA Board with the secretary of the Department of Agriculture as chairperson and the secretary of Department of Finance as vice chairperson.

The PCA Board would also include the secretaries of Department of Budget and Management, Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Three members from the coconut farmers sector, one each from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, would also be included in the PCA Board.