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Coco exports in peril: Duterte appointee Rehan Lao unfit to lead CIIF, refuses to submit SALN

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Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) Chairman Jesus Arranza expressed sadness over the mass resignation of key officials of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund – Oil Mills Group (CIIF-OMG) following the appointment of Rehan Lao as president and chief executive officer, saying this could have reverberating effects on the local coconut industry.

On Thursday, the entire 12-man board of directors, and other key officials of the state-run company tendered their resignation in protest of Malacañang Palace’s appointment of Lao as the new chief of CIFF-OMG.

In the wake of the mass resignation, three major coconut oil mills have already shut down reportedly due to a management vacuum.

The executives who resigned claimed that Lao is unfit for the position, aside from his apparent failure to submit his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN), a basic requirement for those working in government.

“I would suggest, and this is my unsolicited advice for the President, to put people who are competent and knowledgeable about the coconut industry… for that company is essential to the government, for the sake of government and coconut farmers,” Arranza told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Friday.

Arranza noted that the CIIF-OMG, being a sequestered company, should be run profitably in support of the government and the local coconut industry.

He added the CIIF group of companies is strategically important because they are meant to serve as industry catalysts, to stabilize copra prices should private buyers ever conspire to bring them down to the detriment of coconut farmers.

The FPI chairman also mentioned that the current situation in the state-run firm may negatively affect coconut exports.

“With this mess, buyers from the world market might see that there will be (a) supply problem in the future. International buyers consider the consistency of suppliers,” he added. Arranza said this will also affect coconut farmers, as they might be pressured to sell the commodity to private buyers at a lower price.

He said the FPI remains supportive of the government and is willing to lend its expertise towards the speedy resolution of the crisis. The local coconut oil industry is counted among local industries under the FPI banner, he explained.

Arranza was appointed as president and CEO of the CIIF oil mills in 2009 by then president, now Pampanga solon Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He is currently chairman of the Coconut Oil Refiners Association. (PNA)