A NEW VERSION of the measure establishing the P10-billion coconut levy fund was approved on third and final reading in the Senate Monday.

With 22 affirmative votes and no negative vote, Senate Bill No. 1396, or the proposed “Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act,” cleared the chamber once more after the measure was vetoed in the last Congress.

The bill will create the trust fund with funding worth of P10 billion in the first year of implementation, P10 billion in the second year, and P15 billion each in the third and fourth year. A total of 25 billion will be transferred to the trust fund in the fifth year.

It provided that 20% of the annual allocation will fund the development of hybrid coconut seed farms and nurseries; 8% will be used for the training of farmers and their families, and 5% for marketing and promotion.

It will allocate 10% each for farm improvements, processing facilities, credit programs, infrastructure development and health programs. Some 8% will be earmarked for scholarships, 5% for coconut farmers organizations, and 4% for crop insurance.

The fund will support national programs for community-based enterprises, social protection of farmers, coconut farmer organizations, research, and integrated processing of coconut and downstream products.

Ultimately, it is expected to increase productivity and income, alleviate poverty, improve education and social equity, and modernize the industry.

The bill will be implemented by the PCA Board, led by the Agriculture Secretary. It will consist of the secretaries of the finance, budget, trade and science and technology departments.

Also among its members are the PCA Administrator and three representatives of the coconut farmers sector. In the previous version of the bill, coconut farmers had six representatives in the board.

The reduced representation of coconut farmers on the board was among the reservations of Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel even as she voted in favor of the bill.

“It’s important that small coconut farmers be the primary beneficiaries of this social justice legislation,” she said during the session.

“But it’s equally important that they occupy all spaces where decisions are being made on money that is owed them.”

The coco levy fund bill has been a priority measure of the administration since 2016. It secured approval of the 17th Congress, but was vetoed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte due to the broad powers granted to the PCA. — Charmaine A. Tadalan