Presidential task force on coco levy to convene Oct. 5

September 28, 2012 10:21 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Sept. 28 — With the Supreme Court final ruling on the coconut levy fund, Malacanang Friday said the Presidential Task Force on Coco Levy will convene on Oct 5 to discuss the recommendations.

Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte told a press briefing the task force will finalize its recommendations because the President (Benigno S. Aquino III) has asked the members "to come up with a report on the issues surrounding the coco levy fund in light of the ruling of the Supreme Court."

The task force is composed of representatives from the Presidential Management Staff, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Presidential Commission on Good Government, Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Agrarian Reform, Dept. of Finance, Dept. of Budget and Management, and the Philippine Coconut Authority.

The Supreme Court has ruled with finality that the 24-percent block of San Miguel Corp. shares was bought with coconut levy funds — which constitute public money — awarding it to government with a caveat that it should be used only for the benefit of coconut farmers and the industry.

The High Tribunal, in its decision, said that the motion for reconsideration filed by the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation (COCOFED), Maria Clara Lobregat, "is but a mere reiteration or rehash of the arguments that have already been previously pleaded, discussed, and resolved by this Court in its Jan. 24, 2012 decision."

"And considering that the motion's arguments are unsubstantial to warrant a reconsideration or at least a modification, this Court finds no reason to modify or let alone reverse the challenged decision," according to the ruling penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.

Valte said with the final ruling of the SC, the task force now has a "better handle" on how to resolve the issues surrounding the coco levy fund.

Coconut farmers hailed the Supreme Court decision on the coco levy fund, believed to be worth P52.5 billion at P75 per share — considering that the 24 percent SMC shares is equivalent to 700 million shares.

"We have reason to rejoice. The Supreme Court decision is a big blow to the anti-coconut farmers clique. The decision rebuffed the Cocofed’s scheme to get a cut of the coconut levy that truly belongs to the farmers," said Jansept Geronimo, secretary of the Coalition of Coconut Farmers of Quezon.

"The amount involved can spell a great difference for the more than three million poor (coco) farmers across the country," he said. (PNA)

HBC/LGI

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