Presidential aspirant and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte spoke with a group of local farmers in Quezon, during a campaign sortie in the province on Wednesday (March 30) together with his running-mate Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, and promised to return the coco levy fund once he gets elected.
“Sa lahat ng commitments namin, ‘pag ako’y nahalal, ibabalik ko sa inyo ang pera mula coco levy sa lalong madaling panahon,” Mayor Duterte said.
He added that he will force the issue with Congress shall there be a need for a consensus. "It will be done. I can guarantee that to you. Hintay lang kayo [just wait]," Duterte said.
The coco levy fund came from the taxes imposed on coconut farmers during the time of Ferdinand Marcos, but was allegedly used by the former dictator and his cronies to purchase United Coconut Planters Bank and majority stake in San Miguel Corporation. The 40 year struggle of the farmers continues with the Supreme Court recently stopping the implementation of Executive Order 179 and 180 by President Benigno Aquino III for the privatization of the coco levy funds.
It can be recalled that the Duterte camp commented earlier in the month that Grace Poe, another presidential aspirant, is a “puppet” for supposedly defending businessman Danding Cojuangco, one of the alleged Marcos cronies who used the coco levy fund, over the controversial issue. Duterte and Poe are currently leading the surveys on presidential aspirants.
The tandem of Duterte and Cayetano, apart from monthly consultations with farmers to hear out their concerns, also vowed to increase budget for the strengthening of the coconut industry thru better infrastructure, research and marketing.
Quezon province belongs to the top five coconut-producing provinces in the country, accounting for about 8% of the national coconut production based on government data. The province also has a big voting population, making it the 15 voting-rich province/city in the country.