Press Release
March 7, 2018

Statement of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto
Faster, transparent disposition of coco levy will ensure win-win solution for coco farmers

There is no debate as to the need to plow back the coco levy collections to the people. The divergence is on how to do it.

I want a quicker disbursement schedule, which will disburse bigger amounts in a shorter time. If the industry is in ICU, it should get a massive infusion, not the perpetual drip-drip of funds. Why prolong the agony of farmers when we can have a shorter recovery period for an industry in distress?

I want a simpler and more cohesive administration of the trust fund, by one body dominated by farmers, in which they will have the biggest say, instead of creating two layers of bureaucracy, which will lead to dissonance.

My proposal is to expand the membership of the PCA to nine: six of whom will be farmers, and three from the government (the secretaries of Agriculture, Finance and Budget and Management).

The PCA will be given expanded powers, to include:

1. The power to ratify and veto the disposition of coco levy assets, only when such is disadvantageous to the government;

2. To serve as a trust committee; and

3. To draft the industry road map.

Why create two agencies, when one agency can do the job with a one-stop-shop? The powers of the proposed trust committee can be included in the strengthened PCA.

Why create an independent trust committee almost as big as the Supreme Court (with 13 members), when the investment picks are limited to government securities--which means there are no other investments to select; and the spending will be made pursuant to the road map--which means there is already a menu?

I want bigger funds for coconut farmers. The original proposal is limited to annual interest on top of a start-up development fund. My proposal is to match trust income with guaranteed appropriated budgetary support to the PCA in the amount of P10 billion annually.

I want transparent use, recording and monitoring of the trust account. The original proposal is to treat them as off-budget accounts. We know what happened when funds are firewalled from congressional and public scrutiny, and disbursed by one unelected small group given the power to appropriate. Think Malampaya Fund, the road users tax collection.

Lastly, my proposal is for the government to sell all coco levy assets, under a process that is transparent and advantageous to the farmers. Liquidating the assets will enlarge the trust fund. The government must get out of the coconut business because its record in running for-profit corporations has been unblemished by success. It has no business bottling cooking oil. If we create a trust committee that will be allowed to pick investments, run corporations, disburse funds, then we will merely be copying what Marcos did with the CIIF.

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