• The Financial District


At least P167-million from the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) was lost to hackers through a combination of massive automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals and online transfers last June.

The attack on the UCPB, which was confirmed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), recalls the world-class cyberheist of $81-million of the fund kept by the Bangladesh Central Bank at the Federal Reserve in New York years ago.

The online heist reportedly happened during a three-day holiday weekend last June 12, with the hackers withdrawing the money by creating accounts with the UCPB by exploiting a vulnerability in the banks' newly-updated IT system that curiously excluded some security features.

"This money heist happened as coconut farmers renew calls for the return of the multi-billion coco levy fund and assets that include shares of stocks held by farmers in UCPB," according to  Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP.)

“There are some 1.4 million coconut farmers who have been issued shares of stock in UCPB as their private property. Those farmers are still stockholders on record in the books of UCPB, but were regarded as ‘beneficial owners’ of the shares of stock by a Supreme Court (SC) decision in 2012. Farmers are still contesting this decision and are asserting their right to the UCPB shares of stocks. UCPB was bought using the coco levy fund collected from farmers. Farmers have previously challenged Duterte to honor the UCPB shares of stocks issued to coconut farmers,” KMP stressed.

In Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, and Albay in the Bicol region, farmers have mounted actions to demand the return of the more than P100-million coco levy fund to coconut farmers.

According to the Bicol Coconut Planters Inc. (BCPAI), more than 294,000 families relying on coconut farming in the region were affected by pandemic-related lockdowns.

“Makakatulong ang pondo ng coco levy sa mga magniniyog para makaahon sa epekto ng pandemyang Covid-19 at pagka-lockdown. Dati na ngang mababa ang presyo ng kopra, mataas ang resiko at marami  pang pandaraya sa timbangan. Naging napakahirap ang transportasyon at maraming hindi nakabukas na komprada noong naglock-down hanggang sa ngayon," said BCPAI spokesperson Bert Autor.

Instead of the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act that supports the Coconut Industry Roadmap and investment of the coco levy to private enterprises that was re-filed by Senator Cynthia Villar, farmers are supporting the 7-point demand for the return and utilization of the coconut levy fund and assets that include the setting up of a farmer-led coconut trust fund council.

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