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Marcos is a distant star: Duterte gives up finding farmers behind coco levy funds, tells Congress to sort it out again

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President Rodrigo Duterte has given up on identifying the thousands of coconut farmers who should benefit from the P100 billion coconut levy fund regained by the government.

“The problem is, we can no longer trace who are the farmers of yesterday. Marcos was — Marcos is a distant star. We do not know. Ako, alam ko because we had a little piece also that was covered by the land reform. Hindi na natin malaman kung sino ang may-ari,” said Duterte in his fifth State of the Nation Address.

“So I think Congress should look again and try to sort out how best the money can be utilized. I will not make any suggestion but I leave it to Congress to decide what to do with it,” he added.

In the 2016 campaign, Duterte promised to give back to coconut farmers the coco levy funds that were collected from them from 1971 to 1983 under then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Congress passed the coconut levy trust fund which would have provided a way to fulfill this promise, but Duterte vetoed it.

Duterte has cited the coco levy funds in each of his SONA, including the latest one: “I also have not forgotten my commitment to uplift the lives of coconut farmers and further develop [the] coconut industry through the urgent utilization of the coconut levy fund.”

“I once again urge both Houses of Congress to pass a version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund. Tulungan natin ang ating mga magsasaka pagka hindi mawawala ‘yang pera, bilyon ‘yan. Jusko po. Well anyway the… We have learned so many lessons along the way,” said Duterte.

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