Coconut levy is the tax collected from the exacted exported coconut and coconut products under the Republic Act 6260 or the “Coconut Investment Act”. In 1972, the first of these levies was implemented and known as the “Cocofund Levy”. The tax exacted from these levies was 5. 50 pesos per metric ton which was equal to 55 centavos per 100 kilos of copra that was produced for that year onwards until they reached the accumulation point of P100 million. From P 0. 55, the P 0. 0 was the deduction that went to the Coconut Investment Fund or CIF that was used for operations of an organization for coconut farmers handled by the COCOFED. On August 20, 1973 cocolevy funds were established by President Ferdinand Marcos under the presidential decree (PD) 276. Under this decree, there was an initial P15 imposed per 100 kg of copra that was equal to other coconut products. The Coconut Consumer Stabilization Fund (CCSF) exacted P150 of metric ton per copra. The P150 pesos exacted was used for financing the first governmental agency.
Late President Ferdinand Marcos stated when he declared the decree of authorizing the coco levy during his administration was “It shall be the policy of the State to promote the accelerated growth of the coconut and other palm oils industry so that the benefits of such growth shall accrue to the greatest number…so that the coconut farmers (shall) become participants in, and beneficiaries of, such growth and development”. In 1981, as an indicator that the imposed levies added to the burden of the farmers, it was finally set aside in 1982.
But the total collections from the levies were estimated to have reached 1B annually. It reached a total of 9. 7 B in 1981. After 25 years of waiting, the Supreme Court provides decision dated on September 12, 2012 that the public released for public dispensation is P70 billion including interests on the fund since it is held in escrow. But the question is how the funds have been distributed to the coconut farmers in which majority of them are poor and landless?
And who among them could be considered as legitimate coconut farmers and beneficiaries of the said funds? The controversy over the P70 billion cocolevy funds turned ugly recently in clashes between protesting farmers and policemen at the office of National Anti-Poverty Commission in Quezon City. The Protester’s anger has been provoked when the Quezon City policemen did not allow them to enter the NAPC headquarters to air their demand on the cocolevy issue. Willy
Marbella the Deputy Secretary General of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said that the “The Palace-created coco levy fund ‘mafia’ is hell-bent in scheming to once again plunder small coconut farmers’ money…The coco levy funds were exacted from our sweat and blood…. The money should be immediately returned to small coconut farmers and not to failed anti-peasant programs, like the CCT and CARPER. ” Cocolevy fund is a complex issue that provides further investigations that involves many stakeholders. Until now, President Aquino has no decision on where to put the cocolevy funds.
Nevertheless, there were many proposals and plan for the said funds. One of these was to use the funds for government’s conditional cash transfer program, there was also a plan to invest the fund in conservative financial instruments and to use only the yearly interest for programs benefiting the coconut industry. But how do the coconut farmers who are landless and poor benefit from the funds? Is there any plan that is going to make by the government in order for the farmers to partake the benefits from the coco levy funds? To exclude the farmers from the benefits of the coco levy funds is injustice and inappropriate.
As what President Aquino said “Walang Corrupt, Kung Walang Mahirap” but aggravating the problem of landless coconut farmers is much worst act than corruption. Coconut farmers carry the burdens brought by the levies as they work as tenants in coconut farms and pay rent to land owners. The coconut farmers are considered the poorest sector in Philippine society and the benefits they can get from the cocolevy funds are much needed. Imagine, for 25 years of struggles and burden, now is the time for coconut farmers to finally succeed over the coco levy funds.