29 November 2017

Coco farmers ‘sing’ protest in the Senate: Pass trust fund bill before Christmas



Despite the campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte to take up the cudgels for coconut farmers in Congress, the long-awaited trust fund from the coco levy has not been established.

An estimated 1,000 members and supporters of Kilus Magniniyog (KM71) are set to gather at the Senate on 29 November 2017 to demand the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1233 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund bill.

During his campaign in Catanauan, Quezon in 2016, Duterte met with the farmers and promised in writing to ‘force the issue in Congress’.

According to KM71’s Ed Mora, the Senate still seems to be sitting on the proposal. “The 16th Congress ended in June and the Committee on Agriculture chaired by Senator Cynthia Villar has not acted on it,” he said.

Directing their appeal to Villar, the farmers said they will sing “Pasko na, Cynthia Ko”, their version of the popular Christmas carol, as a reminder to hasten the process before Congress goes on recess in December.

In 2017, the bill was again filed in the 17th Congress. “We marched for the second time, from the PCA (Philippine Coconut Authority) to Malacanang to remind President Duterte of his promise,” he said. “But he did not even mention our appeal during his State of the Nation Address (SONA).”

In September 2014, 71 farmers from the group marched 1750 kilometers from Davao to Manila to deliver 3 demands across the legislative, executive and judiciary branches of government during the Aquino administration to establish the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund.

With no concrete results a year after they marched, the farmers fasted and picketed in September in front of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) building to fast-track the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund bill. Then-President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III had certified the bill as urgent and it was passed in the House of Representatives but not the Senate.

Mora added that aside from Senator Villar’s inaction, they want majority leader Senator Koko Pimental and other legislators to openly stand with the coconut farmers.

A law for the farmers, by the farmers, the bill provides for the utilization, management and administration of the coco levy through the perpetual coconut farmers’ trust fund.

The PhP75-billion trust fund, including earnings from interest, will be used for the direct benefit of farmers through social pensions, support for community-based enterprises, farm improvements, and support for farmer-organizations.