Monday, December 15, 2014
Due to conflicting estimates, Recto calls for audit of coco levy funds
MANILA-Due to conflicting estimates on the value of the “coco levy fund”, Sen. Ralph Recto has called for an audit to determine the present worth of the multibillion-peso fund which grew out of the levy on copra sales during the Marcos period.
“There are lots of numbers being bandied about. One estimate, reportedly from the Asset Privatization Trust, puts it at P100 billion. One briefer presented by a financial institution computes it at P73 billion. Government lawyers place it at P60 billion. A Cabinet member says it’s P72 billion,” Recto said.
“Just today, we were told by the Presidential Commission on Good Government that the fund is in the neighborhood of P80 billion,” Recto said.
The latter was the figure PCCG chair Andres Bautista told a Senate hearing as his agency’s appraisal of the fund’s present value.
Recto said only an audit by the Commission on Audit “can settle the confusion and present us with a clear picture on value, status, interests, income and assets of the fund.”
He said COA has both the expertise and the mandate “to follow the money and catalogue the assets.”
“Because the levies were used to acquire a myriad of corporations and finance ventures, we need an audit to show where these are and the state of investments,” Recto said.
Among the investments are seven oil mills, as well as seven other firms engaged in a wide range of activities - from banking to insurance to chemicals - and 10 copra trading companies.
The investments were made prior to 1982 by the Coconut Industry Investment Fund which in turn was financed in whole by coco levy collections.
One of the investments, the 753.8 million shares in San Miguel Corporation worth P56 billion at the time of buy-back, has been declared by the Supreme Court as public funds. The high court’s partial entry of judgment last week paves the way for its eventual plowback to farmers.
“But for government to properly administer the fund and distribute the dividends, it must have an idea of how much money is involved,” Recto said.
“Hindi naman siguro complicated ang accounting. Eh kung nabilang nga natin ang lahat ng puno ng niyog sa buong bansa na 338,339,638, siguro naman mas madali bilangin ang fruits ng coco levy funds,” he said.
Birthed by Republic Act 6260, the coco levy was imposed on copra sales purportedly to raise capital investment for the coconut industry.
By 1986, the total amount collected from the various coconut levies from 1971 to 1982 amounted to P9.7 billion. In the aftermath of EDSA 1, the amount was sequestered by the PCGG, which also triggered a long legal struggle for its ownership.
On May 7, 2004, the Sandiganbayan rendered a partial summary judgment in declaring that the six CIIF-OMG companies, their 14 holding firms, and the CIIF-OMG block of SMC shares as “owned by the Government in trust for all the coconut farmers.”
The Supreme Court, in its decision dated 24 January 2012, upheld the Sandiganbayan.
On the same year, the SMC shares amounting to P57 Billion were paid for by the San Miguel Corporation and was remitted to the National Treasury.
Malacanang is presently drafting an Executive Order which will govern how the interest on the fund will be utilized to benefit the coconut farmers.
In the Senate, Recto has authored SB 455 which prescribes the mechanics of the disposition of coco levy funds and assets.
He has also filed Resolution 30 which calls for an audit on all coco levy investments.
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