QUEZON CITY, Jan. 12 - It was really a happy new year for the New Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Billy Andal because The Confederation of Coconut Organization of the Philippines (CONFED) announced that they are willing to take the necessary steps to withdraw their Petition before the Supreme Court (SC) that resulted in a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the coco levy funds utilization.
“I am extremely happy for the coco farmers and the industry that it serves with the development that one of the seemingly major stumbling block to the early disposition of coco levy fund is hopefully and finally resolved with the CONFED declaration of withdrawal of the TRO,” said PCA Administrator Billy Andal.
The decision by the Petitioner themselves was made after administrator Andal and the representatives from the CONFED have come to an agreement on what needs to be done for the benefit of all the coconut farmers of our country and the development of the coconut industry.
“With these development, President Rodrigo Duterte can now dispose without much legal impediment considering that he promised the electorate, the farmers in particular, that he will release the coco levy fund in 30 days,” added Andal.
According to Ka Charlie Avila, Executive Director Spokesperson of CONFED, the Petition they made was directed against the previous administration for reasons quite publicly discussed.
“We, in CONFED, believe that we have at last a government that means business for the benefit of coconut farmers and the development of the industry. We are willing to withdraw our Petition before the Court to give PCA a freer hand in governance,” said Ka Charlie Avila.
He said that CONFED has its full support and trust to the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and PCA Administrator Billy Andal.
Andal’s position on the disposition of the coco levy fund, that it shall be by and for by the PCA, squarely address their demands on the funds management and disposition.
They also believe that the PCA has the legal mandate to manage the coco funds as part of its job to oversee the coconut industry.
According to Avila, the precise nature of the ownership of these funds is not absolute ownership but very opposite, namely, trust ownership.
Given their origins and alleged purposes, the funds must be regarded as public trust funds: because they were the result of taxation; “trust” ownership because they were levied for certain purposes and could not be disposed of in any which way except for the attainment of those ends or purposes.
“Our government then may not now just do with the funds as it pleases because the funds do not belong to the general funds. They are special funds. Nor even can the farmers claim the funds in an absolute sense of ownership to do with as they please because these funds that came from them are still theirs only for a given purpose. The precise nature of these funds is therefore one of dual ownership,” explained Avila.
He added that the government that collected the funds owns them as trustee. The government is merely trust owner. The real beneficial owners or trustors are all coconut farmers whose class and no other were specially taxed by the State for certain purposes.
“We, the coconut farmers, believe that the coconut industry is one of the major industries that support the national economy. It is the State’s concern to make it strong and secure source not only of the livelihood of a significant segment of the population, but also export earnings the sustained growth of which is one of the imperatives of economic stability,” stressed Efren Villasenor, Chairman of CONFED.
The CONFED is the unified group of coconut farmer’s organizations nationwide that includes the Philippine Association (formerly National Federation) of Small Coconut Farmer’s Organizations (PASCFO), the Pmabansang Koalisyon ng mga Samahang Magsasaka at Manggagawa sa Niyugan (PKSMMN), the Coconut Producer’s Federation (COCOFED) and their many allied farmers’ organizations representing all together more than ninety-five percent of the organized coconut famers sector in our country.
It can be recalled that the SC issued a TRO that prevents the effectivity and implementation of two executive issuances by President Benigno Aquino relevant to the use of the assets.
The TRO in favor of CONFED orders the implementation of Executive Order Nos. 179 (Providing the Administrative Guidelines for the Inventory and Privatization of Coco Levy Assets) and 180 (Providing the Administrative Guidelines for the Reconveyance and Utilization of Coco Levy Assets for the Benefit of the Coconut Farmers and the Development of the Coconut Industry) both issued on March 18, 2015.
The coco levy funds, totaling to P75 billion, were money and assets collected from the coconut farmers from 1973 to 1982.(PCA)