Malacanang says Coco Levy Task Force to come up with recommendations following SC ruling

September 28, 2012 10:21 pm 

MANILA, Sept. 28 — The Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy Fund (PTFCL) will reconvene on Oct. 5 to finalize its recommendation to President Benigno S. Aquino III following a recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the contested coco levy funds, a Malacanang official said on Friday.

The SC awarded the government with finality the 24-percent bloc of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) shares bought using coconut levy money.

The President has asked the PTFCL to come up with a report and a recommendation on the issues surrounding the coco levy fund in light of the ruling of the SC, Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing at Malacanang on Friday.

The PTFCL is composed of the Presidential Management Staff, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Presidential Commission on Good Government, Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, and Philippine Coconut Authority.

Valte said the task force could now be guided by the recent SC ruling in coming up with a recommendation to the President. The ruling, at least, sets a clearer parameter for the task force to work on, she added.

Asked by reporters if the President welcomed the SC ruling, Valte said the Chief Executive can’t comment at this time and he wants to see first the recommendation of the task force.

“The President would also like to see first the recommendations of the task force because it’s not just about welcoming the ruling but really, since we are in government now, it’s about taking concrete actions to address the issues that have come about because of the finality of the ruling of the Supreme Court,” Valte said.

Valte said that the issues that have to be addressed include the custody of the coco levy fund. There are legislative initiatives calling for the creation of a particular trust fund for the coco levy, she added.

In SC’s unanimous decision last Sept. 4, it denied with finality a motion for reconsideration filed by the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation (COCOFED), Maria Clara Lobregat, and others last Feb. 14. The petitioners wanted the funds declared as public.

In its ruling in January, the SC upheld but modified a decision by the Sandiganbayan declaring SMC shares, having been bought with coco levy money, as public funds. The shares were registered under the names of Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) and its holding companies.

The coco levy fund came from taxes imposed on coconut farmers during the Martial Law years by alleged cronies of the former strongman President Ferdinand Marcos.

The fund was reportedly used by the Marcos cronies to purchase the Coconut Planters Bank and a majority stake in the food and beverage giant SMC, which is currently a diversified conglomerate.

The shares being contested is valued at P84.3 billion last January, and being held in escrow in United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB). (PNA)



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