Law on coco farmers trust fund sought
March reaches Congress
The 71 farmers who marched from Davao to Manila met with House of Representatives members today to follow up on their petition for an indirect initiative bill on the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund.
Kilus Magniniyog, a federation of coconut farmers from across the country, filed the bill as Petition No. 3 entitled, “An Act to Spur Rural Development in the Coconut Sector by Establishing a Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund” in August 2014.
“Nakalipas na ang ilang Kongreso pero wala pa ring aksyon mula sa Lower House sa isyung ito,” says Eduardo ‘Ka Ed’ Mora, the farmers’ lead convenor.
AAMBIS-OWA party-list Representative Sharon Garin filed a version of the bill.
Their proposal was referred to the Committee on Agriculture and Food but has not been scheduled for hearing.
But after a dialogue with Speaker Sonny Belmonte and Committee chair Mark Llandro Mendoza, a hearing on on the bill has been scheduled on December 16.
Reps. Jon-Jon Mendoza, Agapito Guanlao, and Josephine Sato were also in attendance.
The group drew the support of the Office of Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Mamamayang Liberal, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission.
The coco levy was collected from farmers during the Marcos dictatorship. But instead of using the money to benefit farmers and the industry, it was used to purchase United Coconut Planters Bank and majority stakes in the San Miguel Corporation owned by Cojuangco.
“Kahit na nag-desisyon ang Supreme Court pabor sa mga magsasaka, kailangan ito maisabatas para maitatag ang trust fund,” he says.
A law will also ensure that the funds will be safeguarded even if the administration changes.
Earlier the group met with Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food who authored a similar proposal. A hearing on the bill has already been called, and according to Villar, they plan to complete a committee report before the end of 2015.
Mora worries members of Congress might be too busy with the upcoming elections to pass the bill but warns that the agriculture sector comprises one of their largest voting constituencies.
“Matagal na ang laban na ito at ang layo na ng aming nilakbay,” says Mora. “Panahon na para umaksyon sila at maibigay ang nararapat sa milyong magniniyog.”
Meanwhile, Church leaders continued to challenge government to act on the farmers’ appeal.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas welcomed the group at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and shared similar concerns.
“My fear, as President of CBCP, is that our coconut farmers are, by a cruel turn of circumstances, becoming part of the weaker if not weakest members of society — victims of those who, in an unprincipled and un-Christian manner, exploit the defenselessness of the economically harassed,” he said in a statement.
Villegas pledged support for their cause and the ongoing march until the longstanding fight for justice is won.
“I join the protest against this marginalization of our coconut farmers and call on the government to demonstrate its resolve at social justice in their favor,” he adds.
For further information and to request for interviews, contact:
CAROL PAJARON: 0918-9470996 / firstname.lastname@example.org
RHEA TENA: 0906-1972666 / 0912-7274085 / email@example.com
NIKKA VILLA-IGNACIO: 0921-4040000
Please like facebook.com/KilusMagniniyog for updates.
PRESS RELEASE: 25 November 2014
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