January 20, 2018, 5:01 pm
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Coco farmers to withdraw TRO on levy

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)  yesterday reported that the Confederation of Coconut Farmers Organizations of the Philippines (CONFED) is willing to withdraw its petition before the Supreme Court that led to the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the release and use  of the P75 billion coco levy funds. 

PCA administrator Billy Andal and representatives from CONFED have agreed to do what needs to be done to benefit the farmers and develop the industry, PCA said. 

“I am  happy that a major stumbling block to the early disposition of coco levy fund is finally resolved with the CONFED declaration of withdrawal of the TRO,” Andal said in a statement.

“With this development, President Rodrigo Duterte can now dispose without much legal impediment considering that he promised the electorate, the farmers in particular, that he will release the coco levy fund in 30 days,” Andal added.

PCA said the coco levy funds, totaling P75 billion, were money and assets collected from the coconut farmers from 1973 to 1982.

Charlie Avila, CONFED executive director and spokesperson, said the petition was directed against the previous administration.

“We, in CONFED, believe that we have at last a government that means business for the benefit of coconut farmers and the development of the industry. We are willing to withdraw our petition before the court to give PCA a freer hand in governance,” Avila said. 

He added the precise nature of the ownership of the coco levy funds is not absolute ownership but trust ownership.

According to CONFED, the coco levy funds must be regarded as public trust funds since these resulted from taxation and trust ownership as they were levied for certain purposes and could not be disposed of in any way except to attain those ends or purposes. 

“Our government then may not now just do with the funds as it pleases because the funds do not belong to the general funds. They are special funds. Nor even can the farmers claim the funds in an absolute sense of ownership to do with as they please because these funds that came from them are still theirs only for a given purpose. The precise nature of these funds is therefore one of dual ownership,” Avila explained.

He added the government as collector of the funds owns them as trustee while the real beneficial owners are all coconut farmers who were specially taxed by the state for certain purposes. 

“We, the coconut farmers, believe that the coconut industry is one of the major industries that support the national economy. It is the state’s concern to make it strong and secure source not only of the livelihood of a significant segment of the population, but also export earnings the sustained growth of which is one of the imperatives of economic stability,” said Efren Villasenor, CONFED chairman.

Earlier, Andal had hoped the legislators can craft a law to finally release the coco levy fundsincluding the fund’s interest worth P4 billion before yearend. 

“My only request to them is that if the fund will take long to be released, we want to have at least the interest worth at least P4 billion. We want it to be fast tracked even if it takes us to plead to lawmakers,” he had said.

 CONFED is the unified group of coconut farmer organizations nationwide that include the Philippine Association of Small Coconut Farmer’s Organizations, Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Samahang Magsasaka at Manggagawa sa Niyugan, Coconut Producer’s Federation and their many allied farmers’ organizations, representing more than 95 percent of the organized coconut famers sector in the country.
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