Congress recalls coco levy fund bill

MANILA Congress has decided to recall the coco levy bill from the Office of the President to introduce an amendment that would save the measure from being vetoed, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday.

In an interview, Zubiri said the decision was made after they learned that the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act was suddenly removed from the list of bills that was to be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday.

If signed into law, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act would create a PHP105-billion coconut levy trust fund to benefit around 3.5 million coconut farmers nationwide.

Upon being informed that there was a possibility that the enrolled measure might be vetoed, the Senate leader said he immediately requested an emergency meeting with President Duterte around 6 p.m. the same day.

During that meeting, the 8-man Senate contingent was told that there were two contentious measures that the Palace wanted to be addressed.

First is the composition of the council that will manage the funds and the second is the additional PHP10-billion allotment that would come from the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

The proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Development puts the responsibility to manage and safeguard the coconut levy funds to a reconstituted Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Board.

Under the measure, the reconstituted PCA board shall be composed of four representatives from government, one from the industry and six coconut farmers.

Zubiri said since the coco levy fund is held in trust by the government, MalacaAang wanted that majority of the board should be composed of government officials to address issues on accountability.

Gusto ng MalacaAang na mangyari na ang coco levy fund, nasa trust ng government, hindi pwedeng mga civilian lahat ang hahawak; baka walang accountability (What MalacaAang wants is that the coco levy fund, which is in government trust, should not be held by civilians; there might be no accountability), he said.

Meanwhile, he said the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Finance wanted the sunset provision on the PHP10 billion fund coming from the national budget.

Gusto nila may sunset provision. Ilang taon ba, dalawang tao, limang taon? Hindi pwedeng perpetual (They want a sunset provision. How many years; 2 years, 5 years? It can't be perpetual) so that it will not drain government coffers of funding every year, Zubiri said.

The Senate Majority Leader said the bicameral conference committee will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday to introduce the necessary amendments and salvage the measure.

It's either we amend it or it's lost, Zubiri said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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