1, 2013

NR # 3243

Solon seeks inquiry into reported illegal use of coconut levy funds
A House member is seeking an inquiry into the reported illegal use of the country’s coconut levy funds, to include the summon of the Board of Directors of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and the proper government authorities to report on the status of the money. Rep. Delphine Lee (Party-list, AGRI) sought the inquiry through House Resolution 229, citing a report by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), and the Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin that the government has allocated P305 million from the coconut levy fund for the establishment of Agro-Industrial Hubs in five regions of the country. “The government should be mindful of the clear intent of the Supreme Court ruling that coco levy funds shall be used for the development of the coconut industry for the benefit of the millions of coconut farmers. The coco levy funds that were recovered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) after more than 25 years of litigation have already been turned over by the agency to the National Treasury,” said Lee. Based on estimates by the government and other groups, there are some 3.5 million coconut farmers, or 20 million including their families, who are said to belong to the poorest segment of the country’s population according to Lee. Looking back, he said in 1975 then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 755 authorizing the Philippine Coconut Authority (Philcoa) to use the coco levy funds to buy 72.2 percent of First United Bank (FUB) which was later renamed UCPB. Then in 1986 shortly after President Marcos was topped, he said the PCGG sequestered all coco levy-acquired assets. However, when President Joseph Estrada became president, he returned control of UCPB to businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco. Just recently, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier decision to award to the government the 24-percent of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) shares, which were part of the 51 percent block of SMC shares that the government sequestered in 1986 on the ground that they were acquired illegally using proceeds of a tax collected for nine years during the Marcos presidency. “Two years after the High Court’s ruling that the fund was ‘public in character,’ the Sandiganbayan declared P.D. 755 was unconstitutional and the 1975 FUB/UCPB transfer of the shares of stock to Cojuangco null and void. It also ruled a year later that the 7.2 percent UCPB shares given to Cojuangco as commission were government funds,” said Lee. Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he did not favor any “individual distribution” of money to coconut farmers from the nearly P70 billion fund representing a 24 percent block of SMC shares recovered by the government according to the lawmaker. (30) rbb

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