Quezon Guv Suarez: Return coco levy funds to farmers
Quezon Gov. David Suarez is urging the national government to return the multi-billion peso coconut levy fund illegally collected from farmers.
With a recent Supreme Court ruling awarding P85 million in coco levy funds to the government, Suarez stressed that it is only right that the farmers benefit from it.
“It must be returned to them. I believe in justice. It came from them and they are the rightful owners of that fund,” the governor said in an Inquirer story.
Suarez stressed the funds forcibly collected from coconut farmers could be put to good use now that thousands of hectares of coconut farms had been ravaged by pests.
The coco levy funds were taxes collected from coconut farmers in the ‘70s and ‘80s purportedly for the development of the coconut industry.
The funds were instead used for personal profit, particularly in the purchase of United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and majority stake in San Miguel Corporation (SMC), among others.
The Coco Levy Fund is estimated to have ballooned anywhere in the range of P100-150 billion in assets.
In Quezon, Suarez said the provincial government is now formulating the Coconut Development Program Roadmap (CDPR) to serve as the “bible” for all plans to improve the lives of local coconut farmers.
“We now want to change the approach. We want the solutions to come from the farmers. And that’s what we will adopt,” he explained.
He said one of the approaches under the planned CDPR is to diversify the local coconut industry and shift its focus away from just producing copra.
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