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Sen. Escudero wants P52-B Coco funds mobilized asap for farmers

Senator Chiz Escudero wants some P52 billion immediately mobilized to help the country’s coconut sector and its farmers.

“I hope Malacanang can decide on how to mobilize these funds at the soonest possible time. Now would be a good time to pump-prime the coconut sector considering the rising demand for coconut in the international market,” Escudero said.

The P52-billion fund comes from a 24-percent block of shares in San Miguel Corp. that was part of about 47 percent of shares sequestered by the government on suspicions that these were acquired using coco levy funds, a tax imposed on coconut farmers since 1973 by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

President Benigno Aquino III’s spokesperson, Undersecretary Abigail Valte, said a Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy was still finalizing recommendations on the custody and utilization of the fund.

“The funds are there. But the government has not yet determined how these will be spent and, more importantly, how these can benefit the country’s coconut farmers,” Escudero said.

“I hope Malacanang decides on this issue very soon because we might hit the point where we won’t be able to take advantage of the growth and where this growth might not trickle down to the farmers,” the senator added.

Coconut farmers  have said they prefer to receive cash from the coco levy funds, something that Malacanang had said they should not expect.

“There is high demand now for coco oil and coco water in the international market. The Philippines is in a very good position to be a major supplier. This will be good for our farmers, but we have to start now. And it all starts with a decision on how to use the funds,” Escudero explained.

Of the country’s 12 million hectares of farmlands, about three million hectares are devoted to coconut. Sixty-eight out of 79 provinces in the Philippines are considered coconut areas.#