Sen. Villar 'confident' Duterte will not veto 'revised' coco levy bill

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 29 2020 01:30 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2020 03:06 PM

MANILA - Senate Committee on Agriculture chair Cynthia Villar said Tuesday she is "confident" that President Rodrigo Duterte will not veto anew a "revised" version of the coco levy bill being tackled in the Senate.

"The bill was re-filed with some modifications, taking into consideration the inputs being suggested by the executive branch of government so it will not be vetoed again," Villar said of the revised measure.

"We are confident that it will already be enacted into law, given the President’s support," she said.

In his penultimate SONA last Monday, Duterte urged Congress to enact a measure that would establish the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund for "the welfare of the farmers."

Last year, Duterte vetoed a similar bill, saying the coco levy fund proposal under the 17th Congress "is lacking in vital safeguards to avoid the repetition of painful mistakes committed in the past."

The coco levy fund trust could "disproportionately benefit wealthy coconut farm owners" since there was no prescribed limit on the land area entitled to benefits, said Duterte in his veto message released in February 2019.

The coco levy are taxes imposed on coconut farmers from 1971 to 1983, which is now estimated to be at P105 billion.

Under the "revised" coco levy bill, the fund will be used for programs that will increase the productivity and income of coconut farmers, the establishment of coconut-based enterprises, and the modernization of the Philippine coconut industry, among others.

Should the bill be signed into law, the Bureau of Treasury will be mandated to transfer P5 billion to a trust fund for coconut farmers and another P5 billion to the Philippine Coconut Authority.

"It is long overdue, the monies of our coconut farmers, which they rightfully own, will also benefit the coconut industry, not only the 3.5 million coconut farmers," Villar said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said that the passage of the new coco levy fund bill is among the Senate's priorities this year.