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Coco levy trust fund created

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Republic Act 115421 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act on Friday night.

RA 115421 seeks to declare coconut levy assets as a trust fund to rehabilitate and modernize the country’s coconut industry.

The measure allows poor coconut farmers to benefit from taxes collected from them decades ago, now worth about P76 billion.

Under the law, the use of the trust fund will be based on a development plan prepared by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) , which must consult coconut farmers and their organizations, industry associations, civil society groups and government agencies on the use of the money.

The Treasury bureau must transfer P10 billion to the trust fund in the first year, P10 billion in the second year, P15 billion in the third year, P15 billion in the fourth year and P25 billion in the fifth year. The trust fund will be maintained for 50 years.

An initial P5 billion will be made available for various programs such as planting and replanting of hybrid coconut seedlings and training of coconut farmers , among other things.

A p - proximately 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut-producing provinces who own not more than five hectares of farmland are expected to benefit from the new law.

During his campaign in 2016, Duterte promised coconut farmers that he would return the coco levy fund in his first 100 days in office.

The late president Ferdinand E. Marcos allegedly conspired with his cronies to tax coconut farmers, promising them the development of the coconut industry and a share of the investments.

But the money was allegedly used for personal gain particularly in the purchase of United Coconut Planters Bank and San Miguel Corp. shares.

Duterte vetoed a similar bill in 2019, saying its inadequate safeguards could benefit wealthy coconut farm owners.