Otso Diretso candidate Erin Tañada questioned President Rodrigo Duterte’s veto of the bill strengthening the Philippine Coconut Authority despite the latter’s campaign promise to prioritize the return of the coco levy fund.
Tañada, who pushed for such legislation as a lawmaker, said it is surprising that the President turned down the measure. During his 2016 campaign, Duterte had promised that coconut farmers would benefit from the coco levy fund within his first 100 days in office.
“Nagulat nga po tayo sa naging desisyon ng ating Pangulo sa pag-veto nitong bill,” the senatorial candidate said Sunday, on Vice President Leni Robredo’s weekly radio show. “[Ang coco levy fund] ay parating nagiging priority legislation ng mga pangulo. At ito’y binanggit ng ating Pangulo noong unang SONA (State of the Nation Address) po niya, na talagang kailangan tulungan ang ating coconut farmers.”
A long-time advocate for farmers’ rights and development, the former congressman lamented how the sector continues to be plagued by poverty, despite being among the producers of food in the country—and how such is often overlooked by the government.
“Ang parating iniisip po ng ating gobyerno at ng ating mga opisyal sa Department of Agriculture, production and harvest. Hindi nila tinitingnan ang income ng farmers,” he said. “Kung sinasabi nila, ‘Umunlad ba ang kabuhayan ng mga magsasaka?’ Kausapin mo ang mga magsasaka, sasabihin nila hindi. Breakeven lang. So ano iyong rason kung bakit, at iyon ang kailangang bigyan natin ng pansin.”
Tañada said the President’s veto was unfortunate, given many years of promise to pass such legislation—including that of Duterte’s—and the compromises that needed to be made in order to see this measure through fruition.
“Nakakalungkot nga itong proseso sa paggawa ng batas tungkol dito, mayroon po tayong ideal … At ito rin ay masasabi po natin na watered down na. Pero tuloy pa rin, sige, basta magamit natin para matulungan ang ating industriya,” he said.
“Itong bicameral conference committee report, nakaayos na … Tapos puno’t dulo, wala pa ring nangyayari. Iyon ang nakakalungkot dito,” he added.