A group of small coconut farmers fighting the establishment of a coconut industry trust fund that it believes will only benefit wealthy account planters has dropped court charges brought against the government.
The trust fund would be worth P40bn, funded by the sale of a 27% stake in local conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) that was bought by the government using money generated by a levy on coconuts imposed during the Marcos administration. Proceeds of the levy were officially intended to be used on regeneration and development projects for the Philippines coconut industry, but instead was used to buy shares in privately held companies such as SMC and the United Coconut Planters Bank.
The trust fund proposal was approved by now-deposed president Estrada, but the country’s new government has already promised to revoke the order, so the farmers have agreed to drop their charges. A group representing small coconut farmers will, however, continue to work closely with the government on deciding how to use levy-related assets.