Villar: 3.5 million coconut farmers will receive better benefits

Senator Cynthia Villar has expressed confidence that the reforms strengthening the coconut industry will grant better and improved benefits for an estimated 3.5 million local coconut farmers.
The Senate has approved on the third and last reading during the plenary session on March 19 the Senate Bill No. 1233 also known as the Act Creating the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, Providing for its Management and Utilization, and for Other Purposes.

According to Villar, passing the said bill suffices old issues of the coconut levy fund and how it can be efficiently utilized for the benefit of the coconut farmers.

“We are confident that with safeguards and reforms in place, we can finally see the day when poverty incidence is no longer the highest among our coconut farmers,” said the senator.

Villar, who is the chairman of the Senate committee on food and agriculture is also one of the senators who pushed for the amendment lead by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto who suggested to do away with a trust fund committee that would decide on the investment of the fund as this will only bring again the mishandled Coconut Industry Fund (CIIF).

Villar also provided provisions on the bill to assure the security of the PhP 100-billion coconut levy funds comprised of cash and assets which will be utilized for the increased income of all coconut farmers.

The senator particularly reiterated the mandate of “the investment of the trust fund principal only in Philippine government securities to ensure the safety of the fund and for assured returns.”

“In terms of the deployment of the trust fund for investment purposes, this representation strongly feels that as a business woman, investing in stocks, commodities, futures and options would be very risky for a trust fund that is endowed with public interest, even where the services of fund managers are engaged,” Villar furthered.

Villar also specified the income or interest earning of the trust fund to different programs such as; 35percent for shared facilities program, 15 percent for scholarship program, 15 percent for the empowerment of coconut farmer organizations and their cooperatives, and 35 percent for self-sufficiency.

The senator also stressed that by addressing concerns of rice farmers and coconut farmers, majority of Filipino farmers will benefit.

“Of the eight million crop farmers in the Philippines, 3.5 million are rice farmers and 3.5 million are farmers. They comprise 90% of all the crop farmers in the Philippines. So if you solve the problem of the rice farmer and the coconut farmer, we solve the problem of majorityof our farmers,” Villar added.