THE WAY FORWARD │ Level Up Philippine Agriculture!

DA calls for firm support to enact “coconut trust fund” law

Author: DA Communications Group | 3 September 2020

Agriculture Secretary William Dar calls for the strong support on the enactment of a proposed law on the efficient use of the multi-billion peso coconut levy to uplift the livelihood of farmers and sustain the development of the country’s coconut industry.

The DA chief is referring to Senate Bill No.1396, or the “Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act,” recently re-filed by Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food (CAF).

For its part, the House of Representatives (HOR), through its CAF, is yet to approve a substitute bill that consolidates 17 previous measures to establish a coconut farmers and industry trust fund. The committee is chaired by Representative Wilfrido Mark Enverga.

“Reiterating what Senator Villar said on the urgent need to utilize the coconut levy, we need to be firm with our support and have a clear position on SB 1396 and the HOR version to finally come up with a law,” said Secretary Dar at the “Coco-Kwentuhan sa Negosyo Webinar Series,” during the recent observance of the “Coconut Month,” initiated by the DA’s Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

“It is ironic that while we are the world’s second-largest producer and number one exporter of coconut products in 2018, our coconut sector contributed a measly four percent (%) to our gross value-added in agriculture in 2019,” said Secretary Dar.

SB 1396 is a consolidation of the bills filed by Senators Villar, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, and Imee Marcos aimed at creating a coconut farmers and industry trust fund that will make efficient use and management of the multi-billion peso coconut levy imposed on farmers under the Marcos administration.

The total fund is now estimated to have grown to at least P80 billion in cash, and billions more worth of assets, said PCA Deputy Administrator Roel Rosales, during a recent virtual presser of the IATF task group on food security.

Secretary Dar said SB 1396 is congruent with the position of the Duterte Cabinet’s economic development cluster, led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

Among the major points in SB 1396 include the components of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP), allocation of the trust fund, composition of the PCA Board, and disposition of non-cash assets.

The CFIDP proposes that the trust fund would have a lifespan of 99 years, and should bankroll 10 major components, namely:

  • Shared facilities program;
  • Farm improvement;
  • Empowerment of coconut farmer’s organizations and cooperatives;
  • Scholarship program;
  • Health and medical program;
  • Credit support;
  • Development of hybrid coconut seed farms and nurseries;
  • Infrastructure development;
  • Training of farmers in farm schools; and
  • Planting and replanting activities.

Rosales said among the major reasons for declining coconut productivity are dwindling planted areas and low yields.

“Total area planted to coconut has been declining through the years, estimated at 3.6 million hectares in 2018, planted to about 347 million bearing trees, that yield a measly average of 44 nuts per tree annually,” Rosales said.

“While we are replanting with high-yielding coconut varieties, our efforts are not enough due to limited budget. But with the coconut industry trust fund, we could do much more,” he added

“That is why we need to revitalize the coconut industry by using efficiently the proceeds of the coconut levy for the benefit of 2.5 million coconut farmers and their families, and the coconut industry in general,” Secretary Dar said.

“The transformation of the coconut industry requires getting our acts together by aligning our strategic measures with the new way of thinking taking place in agriculture. All of us need to look ahead and focus on the concerns of the impoverished rural sector, including the coconut farmers,” the DA chief said.

“Now, more than ever, we must unleash the vast economic potentials of our coconut industry. And we need to continuously empower coconut farmers towards resilience and prosperity,” he added.

“This is the legacy that the Duterte administration wishes to bequeath to succeeding generations of Filipinos — a modern, industrialized and globally-competitive Philippine coconut industry,” Secretary Dar concluded. ### (Rita dela Cruz, DA StratComms) 

Back to Archives