SPEAKER Lord Allan Q. Velasco said in a statement Sunday that he hopes to pass on third and final reading the bill creating the coconut levy trust fund before Congress adjourns on Dec. 19.

He called the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 8136, or the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, “a fitting Christmas gift to more than three million coconut farmers who stand to benefit from the proposed coco levy trust fund.”

The chamber approved the bill on second reading last week.

HB No. 8136 seeks to declare coconut levy assets a trust fund with a mission to rehabilitate and modernize the coconut industry. The bill disburses benefits to poor coconut farmers from the proceeds of taxes collected from them decades ago, now worth around P76 billion.

The measure was declared priority legislation by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his State of the Nation Address in July.

Mr. Velasco said he “could not agree more” with the President on the need to establish a trust fund to ensure the welfare of coconut farmers and their families.

“The establishment of the trust fund will ensure that the recovered coco levy funds will be used for the development of the coconut industry and to uplift the lives of coco farmers who are among the poorest in the country,” Mr. Velasco said.

The bill is expected to benefit around 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 provinces, owning not more than five hectares of farmland.

Under the bill, the trust fund will be maintained for 99 years according to the policies laid out by the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP), to be drafted by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

An initial allocation of P5 billion will be made available to the PCA, including disbursements for the preparation of the CFIDP.

The bill tasks the Department of Finance with managing the trust fund. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza