Small coconut farmers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao gathered in Quezon City today challenging presidential aspirants and the next to directly return the coconut levy money to its rightful owners, the small coconut farmers.
The gathering dubbed as the National Conference of Small Coconut Farmers organized by the Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan (Koprahan) and the claimants movement Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (Claim) issued a Manifesto stating that “it has been five years since the Supreme Court decided that the 20 percent block of coco levy fund shares in San Miguel Corporation are exclusively owned by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.”
“Likewise, the Supreme Court also decided that the 31 percent block of shares is owned by the Republic of the Philippines in trust for all coconut farmers and was ordered returned to the government,” the Manifesto said. The 31 percent shares refers to the Coconut Industry Investment Fund shares in SMC that was reduced to only 24 percent and was already remitted to the national treasury in October 2012 amounting to more than P70 billion.
The conference attended by small coconut farmers from coconut-producing provinces of Quezon, the Bicol region, Eastern Visayas, and Mindanao, also said that they “firmly stand that the 20 percent shares controlled by Cojuangco was acquired using small coconut farmers’ money.”
“Moreover, we firmly believe that the government is only a trustee of the 24 percent block of shares and that we, small coconut farmers, are the ones who should decide on the distribution and utilization of our money,” the Koprahan and Claim Manifesto stressed.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas for its part challenged presidential aspirants to run after the 20 percent shares in SMC controlled by Cojuangco.
The KMP said that the “20% SMC shares which the SC decided in favor of Danding Cojuangco, according to SC records at the time of sequestration, had grown from 27,198,545 shares to 108,846,948 shares in 2011.”
KMP chair Rafael Mariano said “all of the presidentiables appears resigned and convinced that Cojuangco really owns the 20 percent in SMC that was acquired using the coco levy funds. This is an insult and betrayal to millions of small coconut farmers.”
“The litmus test on all presidential candidates is the direct cash distribution of the coco levy money to small coconut farmers and hold Cojuangco accountable for plunder of the funds,” says KMP’s Mariano.
He dared the presidential aspirants to support and approve the Seven-point proposal of small coconut farmers on the distribution of the coco levy funds.
1. Creation of a Small Coconut Farmers’ Council (SCFC) to directly manage and administer the recovered coco levy.
2. Creation of a Coconut Farmers’ Fund to comprise the total amount of the coco levy that formed part of the various funds created for the utilization of the coco levy for various purposes including but not limited to the Coconut Investment Fund (CIF), the Coconut Consumers’ Stabilization Fund (CCSF), Coconut Industry Development Fund (CIDF), the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF), the Coconut Industry Stabilization Fund (CISF), the Coconut Reserve Fund (CRF), and the increment from any interest, earnings, profits, and income from the investments made using these funds, plus the assets acquired, established and/or funded by the coco levy.
3. Small coconut farmers should be the primary beneficiaries of the Fund in the form of cash and other social benefits including but not limited to pension benefits, medical and hospitalization benefits, maternity benefits, and educational assistance including scholarships.
4. Socio-economic programs and projects of small coconut farmers through their recognized organizations/cooperatives shall be financed by the recovered coco levy funds and assets, and the shares and dividends from the investments made from coco levy including assets and corporations (CIIF-Oil Mills Group, 14 Holding Companies, United Coconut Planters’ Bank, Cocolife, etc.).
5. Socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives financed by the Coconut Farmers’ Fund shall primarily focus on livelihood programs and projects meant to provide additional incomes to small coconut farmers; small and medium-scale coconut enterprises, marketing and trading mechanisms, inventions and innovations of machineries and equipment for the development of high-quality coconut and improvement of local coconut production;
6. All coco levy funds acquired assets, investments, and corporation shall be turned over to the Small Coconut Farmers Council. The SCFC shall directly manage the operations of the CIIF-Oil Mills Group, 14 Holding Companies, United Coconut Planters’ Bank, Cocolife, and other corporations acquired through the coco levy funds for the benefit of small coconut farmers.
7. Small coconut farmers’ organizations in coordination with local government units (LGUs) would facilitate the registration process. Small coconut farmers’ organizations shall ensure that genuine small coconut farmers will register. ###