The House of Representatives has approved House Bill No. 9197 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Act on third and final reading.
With a vote of 159 affirmative, 5 negative and zero abstention, the chamber approved the bill seeking to consolidate the coconut levy to create a trust fund that will benefit the industry as embodied in the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan.
The bill will provide P10 billion “jumpstart fund” to accelerate the development of coconut business in the country.
HB 9197 also requires all disbursements to be based on the funding requirement of the program or activities included in the development plan.
This fund composed of the trust principal and the trust income should be utilized for a period of 30 years or until the fund is fully utilized.
This measure also limits the committee to accrue the trust fund from the general fund of the national government.
It also provides for the release of the annual allocation of at least P5 billion for the programs and projects under this bill.
HB 9197 creates the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee which will be composed of the secretaries of departments of Agriculture, Finance, Trade and Industry, National Economic Development Authority, administrator of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and representatives from the Office of the Executive Secretary.
Three representatives from the coconut farmers’ organization, one each from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, will be joining the committee given that these have considerable experience, substantial membership and reputable track record.
Two representatives from the coconut industry sector will also be part of the said committee.
Previously, President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed the original bill intended to create the trust fund. He said the previous bill lacks safeguards that might repeat the “painful mistakes in the past” and might be violative of the Constitution.
The President further explained that an established trust fund that is “effectively perpetual” would violate Article IV Section 29(3) of the 1987 Constitution which
“All money collected on any tax levied for a special purpose shall be treated as a special fund and paid out for such purpose only. If the purpose for which a special fund was created has been fulfilled or abandoned, the balance, if any, shall be transferred to the general funds of the Government,” the Constitution states.