SAN PABLO City, Nov. 27, 2011—A priest from the Prelature of Infanta, Quezon joined a group of coconut farmers and various farmers’ coalition in demanding the recovery of the Coco Levy Funds which rightfully belong to the poor coconut farmers.
Fr. Jojo A. Eranista, 63, who is ministering the poor tribal settlers in Quezon told this writer that he and his tribal group joined coconut farmers’ march from Lucena City (Quezon) to Manila hoping that the poor coconut farmers would finally be given the (coco levy) funds for the rehabilitation of the coconut industry and improvement of the plight of the poor.
The priest said the farmers will succeed in their goal as long they don’t forget the existence of the Supreme Being and to believe that genuine change always begin from the heart.
“The heart of the revolution is the revolution from the heart,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ed Mora, head of the Panlipunang Kapisanan ng mga Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (PKMP), during their overnight stay in San Pablo City on Friday said, they are hoping that at this time the government would be on their side. “Sana’y papasko naman sa amin ng Supreme Court na ipagkaloob na talaga itong coco levy funds sa aming tunay na nagmamay-ari na mga magsasaka ng niyog “(We hope the Supreme Court would finally rule in favor of the coconut farmers by giving the money to the farmers who genuinely own the coco levy funds).
“We are not asking too much from the Supreme Court. We are only demanding what belongs to the coconut farmers. Just implement the true motive of the government in collecting coco levies from the farmers since the time of Marcos,” Mora said, adding “because of too much poverty among coconut farmers, many of them have lost hope in cultivating further their very old coconut trees.”
Many have resorted to cutting coconut trees into lumber as an act of desperation just to be able to support their respective families’ needs, said Mora.
Jansept C. Geronimo of the (COCOFARM) Coalition of Coconut Farmers of Quezon, said he is grateful that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the farmers by allowing the distribution of thousand hectares of land from Hacienda Luisita.
“Kami umaasa na katulad ng ginawa ng Kataastaasang Hukuman na pabor sa katulad naming magsasaka sa Hacienda Luisita, sana’y ganun din po ang magiging hatol nila sa usapin ng coco levy,” (We are hoping that the Supreme Court would finally rule also in favor of the coco farmers like what they did to Hacienda Luisita farmers), said Geronimo.
Meanwhile, San Pablo Diocese gave its support to the Southern Tagalog farmers’ 10-day march for the recovery of the Coco Levy Fund which started from Lucena City on November 23 with stop-over and programs in various towns in Laguna on their way to Manila.
San Pablo Bishop Leo M. Drona on November 21 has instructed parish priests and vicars forane in various vicariates in San Pablo City, Calauan, Los Baños, Calamba City, Cabuyao, Sta. Rosa City, Biñan City and San Pedro to prepare logistics, venues and accommodations to the farmers and their supporters during their days of sojourn in the province.
The estimated 120 farmers belonging to the KATARUNGAN, COCO FARM-Quezon and Alyansa Kanayunan from Southern Tagalog arrived in Laguna on November 25. The march will pass through various towns that include Calauan, Los Baños, Calamba City and Sta. Rosa until the 28th of November.
Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, who is also supporting the march said the activity seeks to put pressure on President Benigno Aquino and the Supreme Court for the speedy resolution of issues surrounding the coco levy fund in favor of the coco farmers; to popularize the clamor to recover the levy fund through mass media; and, to call for the completion of CARPER/agrarian reform in coconut lands.
“The Supreme Court has yet to decide on the 27 percent coco levy shares at the San Miguel Corporation despite findings that the fund is prima facie public. On the other hand, the SC decided that the 20 percent share of SMC which also came from the same coco levy fund, was already decided in favor of Danding [Eduardo Cojuangco]. And with extraordinary dispatch, the Motion for Reconsideration on the 20 percent SMC shares was not only denied, it was ‘expunge’ by the Supreme Court as if the MR did not exist. Thus, while the new administration promised ‘tuwid na daan’, the poor needs to continue its struggle for make justice for the poor real,” Gariguez said.
A statement of support for the farmers signed by CBCP-NASSA National Director Bishop Broderick Pabillo, DD; Senator Wigberto Tanada, Ka Oca Santos and hundreds of peoples organizations, states, “Ang tatlong dekadang pakikibaka ng mga magsasaka ng niyog upang kilalanin ang kanilang mga karapatan sa pagmamay-ari ng coco levy ay sumasalamin sa labis na kamalian sa ating sistemang pangkatarungan. Sa kabila ng pasya ng Sandigan Bayan noong 2004 na nagpapatibay na ang pondo ay tunay na pampubliko, at ang mga magniniyog ay ang dapat makinabang sa Coco Levy, sila ay nanatili pa ring namumuhay sa sukdulang kasalatan at matinding kahirapan.”
The march culminates on November 30 where the farmers are expected to attend the Pambansang Paglilimi Sa Kahirapan: A National Summit On Poverty, Inequality And Social Reform to be held in Diliman, Quezon City. (Fr. Romy Ponte)