The coco levy was imposed to coconut farmers to help accelerate the growth and the development of the coconut industry, and alleviate farmers out of poverty. However, in recent decades, the objectives of this policy were never really materialized. Despite the contributions of the sector in the economy, there has been no significant gains in the overall development in the industry. Coconut farmers continue to be one of the poorest sectors in society. In terms of farm productivity, the country lag behind its ASEAN neighbors. The COVID-19 pandemic also affected many coconut farmers and their families.
In 2012, the Supreme Court finally settled the ownership row of the coco levy fund (CLF). However, the absence of definite measures on how the government should manage and utilize the fund remains a challenge. In past Congresses, bills were filed to give clear guidelines on the management and utilization of the fund. However, those bills were never approved or was vetoed by the President. This 18th Congress, a total of 16 bills were filed with measures containing provisions that can address issues in the vetoed bills. Hence, the passage of this priority measure must be strongly pursued to protect the interest of coconut farmers and to boost development in the sector. While the government is battling the COVID-19 pandemic with limited fiscal resources, the fund is the most practical source of financing in helping farmers in this health crisis.
The paper intends to: 1) assess/determine whether the proposed legislative measures provide legal anchor/framework that addresses a number of critical constraints enunciated in the coconut industry roadmap; and, 2) determine if the current/latest versions of the proposed measures have provided clarity to the vetoed provisions of SB 1976/HB 8552, titled “An Act to Further Strengthen the Philippine Coconut Authority, Amending Presidential Decree 1468.
This paper is subdivided into three major discussion areas focusing on the: 1) performance of the coconut industry; 2) history of the CLF including policies and legal decisions; and 3) provisions of the coco levy bills filed in the 18th Congress.