Duterte asks Congress to redraft bill strengthening PCA to include 'more safeguards'

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President Rodrigo Duterte (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 10) — President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the bill reconstituting the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in order for Congress to "re-craft" it with more "safeguards to protect the taxpayers' money and shield the levy funds from irregular and unlawful use," Malacañang said Sunday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said vetoing the amendments to Presidential Decree 1468 or the Revised Coconut Industry Code will give Congress more time to improve the PCA and the distribution of coco levy funds.

Among the reasons Duterte vetoed the measure is the similarity of the bill's set-up of the PCA to the Road Board, which Duterte had ordered abolished amid corruption allegations.

"The PCA is set up like the Road Board which is heavily criticized for allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds. The PCA Board, like the Road Board which disburses the Motor Vehicle User's Charge, is given full authority to disburse P10-Billion every year in perpetuity without a terminal date, and subject only to review by Congress after six years," Panelo said.

Panelo added that the PCA's oversight functions under the bill are placed only with Congress, excluding the executive branch.

"The PhP10-Billion in annual appropriation for the development of an industry whose implementation is placed on an agency not required to seek approval from the Executive Branch is susceptible to corruption akin to creating pork barrel funds," he said.

Duterte also opposed the composition of the reconstituted 15-member PCA board under the vetoed bill will include seven members from the private sector, according to Panelo.

"A receipt of PhP10-Billion by the board from taxpayers' money therefore translates to permitting private persons to influence the disbursement of public funds," he said.

The coconut levy fund was taken from a tax imposed on coconut farmers by former President Ferdinand Marcos for the development of the coconut industry. Part of the funds was allegedly siphoned to corporations of alleged cronies of the late President.

There are currently two proposed laws on coco levy: the recently vetoed bill that would strengthen the PCA which was the consolidated bicameral conference report on Senate Bill 1976 and House Bill 8552, and the bill that would create the Coco Levy Trust Fund which is the consolidated bicameral conference report on Senate Bill 1233 and House Bill 5745.

Both bicameral conference reports were ratified by both houses of Congress on November 28, 2018.