PRRD wants ‘more safeguards’ in coco levy bill

MANILA -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte has vetoed a bill strengthening the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for lacking safeguards to prevent coco levy funds from being used unlawfully, MalacaAang said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President has recognized Congress for passing the consolidated version Senate Bill 1976 and House Bill 8852 -- An Act to Further Strengthen the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

However, he stressed that the President opted to use his veto power with the thought and confidence that the lawmakers can re-craft one that will provide more safeguards to protect the taxpayers' money and shield the levy funds from irregular and unlawful use, as well as guarantee its proper management.

Panelo enumerated four grounds cited by the President for veto, including how PHP10-billion in annual appropriation for the development of an industry whose implementation is placed on an agency not required to seek approval from the Executive Branch is susceptible to corruption.

The oversight functions over the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is placed only with Congress. Specifically, the strengthened PCA Bill mentions of an oversight to be exercised by the Coconut Farmers and the Industry Oversight Committee to the exclusion of the Executive Branch, Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo said another ground cited by the President is that a reconstituted PCA is given various functions, including but not limited to the sale, disposition, or dissolution of coco levy assets without checks and balances.

Such condition will diminish the ability of the Department of Justice, through the Office of the Solicitor-General in coordination with the Presidential Commission on Good Government to act on cases relating to coco levy assets, Panelo said.

He also noted that under the PCA bill, the composition of the reconstituted 15-member PCA Board includes seven members coming from the private sector which might allow them to influence public funds' disbursement.

A receipt of PHP10-billion by the board from taxpayers' money therefore translates to permitting private persons to influence the disbursement of public funds, Panelo said.

The last ground cited by Duterte for veto is how the PCA can be likened to a Road Board which currently faces allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds.

The PCA Board, like the Road Board which disburses the Motor Vehicle User's Charge, is given full authority to disburse PHP10-billion every year in perpetuity without a terminal date, and subject only to review by Congress after six years, Panelo said.

Panelo, meanwhile, emphasized that Duterte's decision to veto the PCA bill is not only a reflection of promoting good governance and public accountability, but will also give Congress more time to improve it.

The veto of the bill will give Congress more time and opportunity to improve the formulation of the PCA and the distribution of coco levy funds, Panelo said.

The veto by PRRD of the legislative measure is a reflection of the principled stand of this administration in promoting good governance and public accountability, he added.

The PCA Bill is one of the priority bills pushed by Duterte.

Under the proposed measure, the reconstituted and strengthened PCA will handle PHP100-billion fund for coco levy.

The reconstituted PCA gives greater representation of farmers with six seats (two each from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao) in the 11-member PCA Board.

Other members will be composed of a representative from the PCA, the Department of Finance, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Budget and Management, and one coconut industry stakeholder. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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