SENATOR Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan exhorted the House of Representatives to hurry up the hearings on the Coconut Trust Fund Bill to unlock the P75-billion coco levy funds for the benefit of the 3.5 million Filipino coconut farmers.
“Natapos na ang hearing sa Senado noong Setyembre 1, at ang committee report ay inihahanda na. Meron tayong malinaw na mensahe mula sa administrasyon para ituwid ang kawalang katarungang ito. Dapat nating madaliin ito para sa ating mga naghihirap pa ring magniniyog,” Pangilinan added.
Earlier, the Duterte administration recognized that the monies cannot be distributed to the farmers as it had promised during the election campaign because those who contributed to the levy more than 40 years ago cannot be determined anymore, among other reasons.
In separate statements, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol also pointed out that a temporary restraining order (TRO) of the Supreme Court is preventing the current administration from using and distributing the funds.
The Supreme Court has issued a TRO on two executive orders of then-President Aquino that transferred a portion of the funds to the government’s general fund.
The P75-billion fund is already with the national treasury and cannot be spent without congressional approval or a new law.
“Ibig sabihin, kailangang gumawa ng batas ang Kongreso na magpapahintulot sa paggamit ng pondong ito,” Pangilinan said.
The P75-billion coco levy funds were collected from coconut farmers during Martial Law purportedly for the development of the coconut industry.
But instead the collected monies have been misused by the cronies of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. For over 40 years, the money was trapped in court disputes.