The tandem of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano assured Filipino coconut farmers on Wednesday that under their leadership, their long-standing plight regarding the undistributed multibillion-peso coco levy funds will be addressed once and for all.
The duo gave this assurance during their “Ronda-Serye” listening tour with small coconut farmers in Catanauan, Quezon, a leading coconut producing province. During the dialogue, farmers lamented how the government had been neglecting their calls to distribute the P71-billion fund.
“Apat na dekada na ang nakakaraan simula ng patawan ng buwis ang milyun-milyong magniniyog. Hanggang ngayon, naghihintay pa rin sila ng hustisya sa pondo na dapat ay matagal na nilang pinakinabangan,” Cayetano stressed. “We will not allow this cycle of neglect to continue. The disorder this has caused in the lives of our farmers needs to end,” he added.
The tandem used the time they had in Quezon to present their signed three-point manifesto titled, “Panata para sa Maliliit na Magniniyog”, wherein they pledged to end what they described as the “systemic oppression of small coconut farmers.” Duterte and Cayetano vowed before coconut farmers to implement the following “bold solutions” if they get elected:
“First 100 days”
1.) The distribution of the coco levy fund for the benefit of small coconut farmers and in consultation with legitimate farmers’ groups in their first 100 days in office
2.) Additional budget, over and above the coco levy funds, for the development and modernization of the coconut industry; and
3.) Help pursue the remaining part of the fund.
“Panahon na para maramdaman ng maliliit na magniniyog ang tulong ng isang gobyernong maghahatid ng tunay na pagbabago,” Cayetano stressed. “By exercising political will, Mayor Duterte and I will ensure that our coconut farmers will directly benefit from the coco levy fund, and that the money that was wrongfully taken away from them will be recovered.”
Cayetano earlier questioned previous statements from Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero absolving Danding Cojuangco from any guilt for the delay in deploying the multibillion-peso fund.
“Sadyang ang kailangan ay lakas ng loob at matibay na liderato. Hindi pwede dito ang protektor ng mayayaman at monopolista. Kaytagal nang nagtiis at naghirap ng ating magniniyog. Panahon na para sa isang gobyernong may matapang na solusyon at mabilis na aksyon para tapusin ang gulong ito,” Cayetano ended.