coco levy blues

if not for that protest action by hundreds of coconut farmers from bicol, quezon, aurora, and cagayan, demanding that malacañang’s national anti-poverty commission (NAPC) keep its hands off the coco levy fund — a protest action that turned violent because the farmers were understandably stoked by the snub of former leftist activist now NAPC chief joel rocamora and also by cops who sprayed them with fire extinguishers, cops who didn’t seem to be under orders to practise maximum tolerance, i wonder why, considering that these hundreds of farmers have every reason to be outraged by the aquino admin’s cavalier attitude re the coco levy fund, and considering that this is an election year and these rallyists represent millions of coco farmers nationwide who have been waiting to finally benefit, as promised since martial law days, from that infamous levy collected by marcos and enrile and cojuangco for over a decade ’73 to ’82 — that protest action that dzmm teleradyo’s reporters covered live, and treated by anchors just like any leftist rally, harping purely on the violation of the human rights of the one cop who was slightly hurt, and nothing, not a peep about the coco farmers as victims of plunder, nary a hint or sense of the context, of big time corruption.  if not for that protest action and the way media reported it, i would not be blogging about the coco levy now.

i had been giving the prez the benefit of the doubt, waiting for him to surprise us with a scheme that would be fair and square to coconut farmers, for a change.  alas, it would seem that senator joker arroyo is right on how coco farmers, then and now, are treated: Aquino, Marcos “birds of the same feather”

disclosure: i have a personal stake in the coco levy fund even if i am not a “poor coco farmer.” but my mother and aunts and uncles, and many more like them from tiaong, candelaria, sariaya, and lucena paid that levy, too.

According to a mid-1960s survey, more than 300,000 coconut farms were owned by 250,000 landowners. Plantations larger than 1000 hectares accounted for less than 1 per cent of the total area allocated to coconuts (Ofreneo 1980). The national average of coconut landholdings was at this time 3,41 hectares.

i gather that’s 3.41 hectares, confirmed here as less than four hectares in the early 1990s.

in the mid-60s my nanay inherited some 70 hectares of coco land from her parents, land bought with hard-earned money and planted to coconut, some in the 1880s through the 1890s, most in the 1930s.  in the late ’70s, when she had been paying the levy long enough to see that the promised benefits, such as the replacement of aging coco trees with new seedlings of a more productive breed, were not forthcoming, she sold some 20 hectares of it and divided the rest, no tenants, among 7 children, and we continued paying that levy — which started at php 15 per 100 kilograms of copra and ballooned to php 100 at some point, and then stabilized at php 76 — because we had no choice, we could only grouse in private, it was martial law.  and like many others, we have “souvenirs of deception” in our files, some stock certificates and some receipts that we never bothered to convert to stock certificates just because the process was soooo tediously frustrating and terribly enraging given that marcos enrile danding and their cohorts were making hay with our money and shamelessly enriching themselves at our expense.

so, yes, it was reason to rejoice — and to thank the tibak coco farmers groups for their vigilance — when the supreme court awarded some 70 billion php of coco levy fund assets to coconut farmers, even if it could have been double that, it would seem, if, among other anomalies, the sc had not rewarded danding with those san miguel stocks said to have been bought, too, with coco levy funds — a measure, i suppose, of danding’s and enrile’s and the marcoses’ continuing clout in the halls of justice, or maybe the attitude is simply that, tama na naman yung 70 B, after all 9.6 B lang yung nakolekta (well, officially) from ’73-’82, at pinalago na lang nina danding et al, pasalamat nga dapat ang poor coco farmers.  yeah right.  as if.  fact is, dahil ang gagaling naman talaga nina danding et al, they could actually have delivered on promises to us coco farmers while enriching themselves, but they didn’t.

At UCPB’s headquarters at Makati, said a former director, rooms were filled to the rafters with the certificates as the realization hit that it would be a logistical and administrative nightmare to deal with the millions of unshod stockholders.

medyo mata-pobre noon, tila mata-pobre pa rin ngayon.

that protest action of the farmers at the national anti-poverty commission was a wake-up call. since then i’ve been googling the presidential task force on the coco levy funds, looking for an official statement from the palace, and finding nothing.  but it would seem that concerned government officials tipped off the coco farmers groups led by anakpawis partylist and kilusang magbubukid ng pilipinas (KMP) that rocamora’s anti-poverty commission was planning to dip into coco levy funds for its condiitonal cash transfer and other dole-out programs.  read Farmers assail ‘coco levy fund mafia”, clash with cops 

Rocamora … said the inter-agency task force, of which NAPC was part, did not expect it would be able to use the coco levy funds at least until the end of the year.

“Given how the Supreme Court rules, and given the bureaucracy, the government should count itself lucky if the coco levy funds became available by the end of the year,” he said. He denied that his agency would use the funds for any political purpose.

He said it was true that the NAPC would request money once the coco levy funds become available, as the poverty alleviation programs would be used for the benefit of the poorest coconut farmers.

rocamora gives the impression that if it were up to him, we would be getting our money back, in cash.  kaya lang:

“The problem with that proposal is there is no way to identify who are the genuine beneficiaries,” he said.

He said the Supreme Court decision also specifically stated that there was to be no distribution of the coco levy funds to private individuals.

Rocamora said cash distribution would be tantamount to a “dole-out,” a criticism that had also been leveled at the government’s conditional cash transfer program.

“What makes more sense is to use the money from the coco levy for projects that will benefit the poorest coconut farmers instead of giving them out to specific individuals,” he said.

what kind of thinking is that.  i’m disappointed in rocamora who used to be a leading leftist intellectual.  kung sila ang mamimigay, magdo-dole-out ng coco levy funds to poorest-of-the-poor coco farmers as conditional cash transfer, okay lang yon.  pero kung cash distribution to all coco farmers na nag-contribute sa levy fund, dole-out din daw yon, like the CCT for which the aquino admin is already being criticized, so hindi puwede.  ano daw?

it’s not true that cash distribution would be tantamount to a dole-out.  it would be a dole-out only if coco farmers did not contribute to that levy fund in hard cash.  excuse me.  industry stakeholders kami, the seed money of 9.6B came from our pockets.  giving it back to us now, with interest, at the prevailing value of the peso, would be to compensate us for the injustice and losses and damages and distress, moral, emotional, mental, atbp. that we suffered over decades of oppression and deprivation while the powers-that-be enriched themselves using our money.  and, of course, we’ll want help replacing aging trees with new seedlings, that is, if the aquino admin is serious about wanting to uplift the moribund coconut industry.

as for the problem of identifying the genuine beneficiaries, it is a problem only in the sense that it’s a big job, drawing up that list, but there must be records in munisipyos across the nation where real estate taxes are paid that would identify the owners of coconut plantations that existed in the 70s and 80s, many of which still exist.  those that have been planted to other crops or have changed hands, well, there should be records of that, too.  the philippine coconut authority (PCA) should have records, too, unless they’ve been spirited away, shredded maybe?  meanwhile, those who have proof that they contributed to that levy, the holders of stock certificates and/or receipts, no matter how few or incomplete, should be first on the list of genuine beneficiaries, and it can be assumed that they paid that levy all through ’73-’82.  there are ways and ways of identifying us, if the aquino admin only cared enough to do right by coconut farmers, shod and unshod.

“The coco levy funds were exacted from our sweat and blood,” (KMP deputy secretary-general) Marbella said. “The money should be immediately returned to small coconut farmers and not to failed anti-peasant programs, like the CCT and CARPER,” he said.

the worst part of it is, the department of agriculture and the PCA are in the hands of a secretary, one proceso alcala, whose concern is not for coconut farmers but for other  industry stakeholders who are of course scheming to get their sticky hands on some of that 70B php.

The coconut industry stockholders favors the use of coconut levy funds for provision of farm inputs to coconut plantations and capacity building of coconut farmers, instead of distributing the proceeds in cash. 

alcala actually believes that the benefits will trickle down to the coconut farmers.  susmaryosep.

Instead, the assets should be used to rehabilitate and modernize the industry so the benefits would trickle down to the poorest coconut farmer, he said. 

thank heavens for senator joker arroyo, the only senator who has been speaking up for the coconut farmers.

“But that is exactly the same as what the martial law government promised the farmers when they collected the levies from them which in turn was used to buy the controlling interest in San Miguel. The farmers did not benefit from that investment, directly or indirectly,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo said the farmers for 26 years fought to recover these monies, but the post-EDSA administrations half-heartedly supported farmers and the industry did not.

“As to the farmers, what is important is the cash component that goes to them. Will the farmers wait until the coco industry is rehabilitated and create employment for them? That is the carrot that was waved to them in 1973,” he said.

He said, however, that the farmers are not entirely satisfied with the Supreme Court decision. “But better a loaf than no bread at all. The decision is clear and peremptory — “to be used 1) for the benefit of all coconut farmers and 2) for the development of the coconut industry.”

panahon pa ni marcos, “trickle down” benefits na ang pangako.  it should be obvious by now, after decades of “development” kuno, na epic fail yang trickle-down economics.  that alcala seems so clueless makes you wonder why he was chosen to serve as agriculture sec and head of the coconut authority.  precisely to make sure the coco levy fund assets remain in the hands of the industry’s powers-that-be?  c’mon, mr. president, you promised us CHANGE, remember?  trickle-down is soooo last century!


Magsaysay calls for gov’t aide to coconut industry 
Open letter to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III
Coco levy eyed for P10-billion Hacienda Luisita payment 
Supreme Court coco levy ruling ‘too late, too obscure’—Sen. Arroyo
Victory for whom? 
Bid to use fund to prop up copra prices opposed 
Hinggil sa Coco Levy Funds – Ating Alamin 


  1. manuel buencamino

    “He said the Supreme Court decision also specifically stated that there was to be no distribution of the coco levy funds to private individuals.”

    Kung totoo iyan anong magagawa natin mga private individual coconut farmers na nagbayad ng coco levy?

    • “Given how the Supreme Court rules, and given the bureaucracy, the government should count itself lucky if the coco levy funds became available by the end of the year,” … i wonder nga if any lawyers among coco famers have filed a motion for recon… final and executory na ba? been googling it, finding nothing

  2. say ng supreme court: “We have ruled time and again that taxes are imposed only for a public purpose. They cannot be used for purely private purposes or for the exclusive benefit of private persons. The coconut levy funds were sourced from forced exactions decreed under PD 232, 276, and 582, among others, with the end-goal of developing the entire coconut industry,” the Court held. It added: “Clearly, to hold therefore, even by law, that the revenues received from the imposition of the coconut levies to be used purely for private purposes to be owned by private individuals in their private capacity and for their benefit, would contravene the rationale behind the imposition of taxes or levies.”

    then why would it be okay for rocamora to give the money away to the poorest-of-the-poor via CCT? private individuals din sila, di ba? or does one become public when one is very poor?

    • manuel buencamino

      Sa pagkaintindi ko the coco levy funds are being distributed through the CCT, a government program, so it meets that public purpose requirement of the SC. At hindi puwedeng isauli sa atin directly kasi private purpose tayo. Tama ba pagkaintindi ko?

      • CCT meets public purpose requirement… hmm… while paying us back is a private purpose… hmm … di kaya puwedeng i-consider ding public purpose ang pagsauli sa atin as the just thing to do dahil these forced exactions did not go towards the end-goal of developing the entire coco industry?

        “The coconut levy funds were sourced from forced exactions decreed under PD 232, 276, and 582, among others, with the end-goal of developing the entire coconut industry”