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Pangilinan brings P75-B coco levy trust fund bill to Senate floor.

Recalling the plight of coconut farmers during the Marcos rule, Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Wednesday brought to the Senate floor a bill that would pave the way for the release of P75 billion in coco levy funds long trapped in litigation.

At the Senate session, Pangilinan, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, brought before his colleagues a committee report consolidating five proposed bills seeking to setup a Coco Levy Trust Fund for the benefit of the country's coco farmers.

'Coco levy was collected from coco farmers during martial law. This was supposedly for the development of the coco industry. Instead, the money was pocketed and considered personal funds by the dictator's cronies,' said Pangilinan.

'It has been more than 40 years that the funds have been caught in cases in courts. Its amount has reached P75 billion. The Supreme Court itself has said that money is for our coco farmers,' said the senator, in reference to an earlier court ruling that classified the coco levy funds as public money.

In an emphatic speech, the lawmaker called on his colleagues to 'move against forgetting,' as he lamented how the Supreme Court ruling allowing the burial of deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani was an act that sought to remove the nation's memory of the abuses during martial law.

'The Supreme Court's decision yesterday was a move to erase our collective memory. Of the illegal arrests, detentions, tortures, killings. And the plunder during martial law. For there was systematic robbery of people's money, as several Supreme Court decisions have said. One of those decisions

is on the coco levy,' Pangilinan said.

'That was yesterday. Today we move against forgetting. Today we will prove once again that the dictator does not deserve a place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Today we sponsor the committee report on the bill,' he said.

Under Senate Bill No. 1233, the coco levy funds would be used to advance the coco industry, turn the amount into a perpetual trust fund with only its annual interest utilized.

It would also create a Trust Fund Committee made up of 11 members headed by the secretaries of finance and agriculture, with majority of the membership from the coco farming sector. The bill also aims to craft a comprehensive Coconut Development Plan.

Pangilinan said the time has come for the coconut farmers to be given their due.

'This is a fund that came from what the dictator (Marcos) and his cronies had stolen from our coco farmers. We will now be able to give this back to them,' he said.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Nov 9, 2016
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