UNITED Coconut Planter’s Bank (UCPB) board member and Coconut Industry and Reforms executive director Jose Faustino reported on the uncertainty revolving around the use of the coconut levy fund in a talk last month at the Tanghalang Teresita Quirino, UST Graduate School.

According to Faustino, having farmer group representatives in the board of UCPB and other companies where the coco levy fund is invested is not enough.

“With farmer groups and advocates in the boards, favorable business deals such as direct copra marketing can be made. But whether the gains may be protected, sustained, and finally made permanent, it would still rely much on the political scenario at hand,” he said.

Faustino’s talk was part of “Patakaran: People’s Lecture Series” last Nov. 19-21.

The coco levy was imposed by President Ferdinand Marcos. The government collected 55 centavos per 100 kilos of copra to finance the Coconut Investment Company—to be owned, supposedly, by the coconut farmers. The money instead was invested in UCPB. The tariff eventually ballooned to P100 per 100 kilos of copra, largely shouldered by small coconut farmers.

Using the money from the coconut levy, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuanco, a Marcos crony, acquired a majority stake in San Miguel Corp. (SMC), the country’s biggest company. Cojuanco now manages SMC.

Today, having appreciated in value, the coconut levy is estimated to have P100 billion in assets, Faustino said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David talked about women’s reproductive rights during her lecture on “The Role of Filipina Women in the Age of Globalization.” She emphasized the use of family planning and natural birth control methods in addressing the rapid growth of the Filipino population.

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“Safe, cheap, and reversible natural family planning is the alternative to artificial birth control methods. We need to start controlling our population now if we want our children and grandchildren to have a good future,” she said.

On the last day, Anna Olivares, executive director of the Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor, discussed “The Future of the Community Mortgage Program (CMP) under the Housing Department.” She urged concerted actions to solve the problem of homelessness.

Patakaran is a 12-lecture series on current issues organized by Demokraxxia, a non-governmental organization aimed at expanding the democratic gains of the Filipinos.

Collaborators in the series were Fundacion Santiago, the UST Social Research Center, and the Presidential Social Fund of President Macapagal-Arroyo.

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