“Aquino has no legal and moral authority to sell these coco levy funded corporations and assets.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Coconut farmers condemned the planned privatization of coco levy funds and assets.
President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III issued last month Executive Orders (EO) 179 and 180 that will privatize shares in the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) Oil Mill Group.
The coco levy refers to taxes or exactions collected during the martial law years from coconut farmers, planters and millers. Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., uncle of President Aquino used the coco levy to purchase UCPB, six coconut oil mills, 14 holding companies, and SMC. An estimated P80 billion has been recovered from SMC and is now in the Bureau of Treasury.
While both EOs state that “all the proceeds of any privatization of the coco levy assets shall be solely and exclusively used for the benefit of all the coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry,” farmers organizations argued that the EOs are “designed to once again plunder the coco levy funds.”
EO 179 orders the disposition of UCPB shares to be determined by the government; shares in the CIIF and its holding firms; and 5.5 million shares held by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) since March 1999. The President also ordered the dissolution of the CIIF companies.
Meanwhile, EO 180 mandates the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) to find ways to dispose of the non-cash assets of the coco levy fund.
Nestor Villanueva, national coordinator of Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM), said the coco levy funds and assets are owned by small coconut farmers and not by the government.
Villanueva said Aquino’s privatization and auction of the UCPB, CIIF Oil Mills, and other coco levy funded assets “are an outright denial and deprivation of our just and legitimate claim over the coco levy funds.”
‘Height of greed’
Rafael Mariano, chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the EOs “clearly demonstrate the height of the President’s greed.”
He said “EO 179 and 180 strengthened state control over the funds by declaring that all coco levy funds belong to the government, which did not contribute a single cent to the funds.”
The KMP and CLAIM argued “Aquino has no legal and moral authority to sell these coco levy funded corporations and assets.”
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, who was also a coconut farmer, said, “Coco means coconut farmers, not from Danding Cojuangco to his nephew Noynoy Cojuangco-Aquino.
The KMP and CLAIM said they would question the constitutionality of Aquino’s EOs before the Supreme Court.