House taps remaining 2019 budget to assist coconut farmers

Published November 13, 2019, 11:25 AM

by Dr. Eduardo Gonzales

By Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga is proposing that the remaining available amount in the 2019 P3.757-trillion national budget be tapped to provide cash, marketing, and technical assistance to coconut farmers in the wake of enormous and continuing drop in the prices of copra (dried coconut meat) in the country.

Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga (Cong. Mark Enverga Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga (Cong. Mark Enverga Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) 

He said emergency measures should be implemented to help ease the plight of the coconut farmers.

“Our coconut farmers are in desperate situation and due to copra price fluctuation, farmers are no longer harvesting coconuts. Some farmers cut coconut trees illegally or circumvent policies of the government against illegal cutting of coconut trees and see them as lumber, instead of harvesting the coconut,” Enverga, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, said. There are 2.6 million coconut farmers and farmworkers in the country.

“If this low copra selling price and production continues, the coconut industry will collapse,” he warned.

He said the 68 coconut-producing provinces account for more than 10 million families, majority of which live below the poverty line.

Citing a report from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), he said from July, 2018 up to June 2019, there was a significant and continuing drop in copra prices both mill gate and farm gate.

“The price of copra has declined because of a glut in supply in the world market of vegetable oils as well as speculative behavior by global traders reacting to announcements by the European Union (EU) that they will ban the use of palm oil in their bio-fuels program,” Enverga said.

The House leader filed House Resolution NO. 504, urging the Department of Agriculture, PCA, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and other agencies to implement emergency measures to ameliorate the coconut farmers’ “economic shock.”

“Any amount remaining available in the budget in GAA 2019, to be officially determined by the Bureau of Treasury beginning September, 2019, and on a monthly basis thereafter be appropriated for the direct cash assistance program for coconut farmers officially included in the National Coconut Farmers Registry System in the country,” the three-page resolution said.

He said the aid should also be extended to the coconut farmers—transport allowance for the transportation of copra and husked nuts from farm to mill; marketing assistance, technical and  training assistance; capital assistance provisions for alternative income activities; and livestock and seedling dispersal through the PCA to accredited farmer organizations.

Enverga also batted for the immediate implementation of Republic Act 9367, the Biofuels Act of 2006, which mandates that all diesel fuels sold in the domestic market be blended with five percent Coco Methyl Ester (CME).

“Increasing the current biodiesel blend to five percent as mandated by law will increase domestic crude coconut oil (CNO) utilization and thereby contribute greatly to the stabilization of domestic copra prices,” he said.

He also urged the DA or the PCA to enter into tripartite arrangement for copra direct marketing whereby farmers’ cooperatives deliver their copra directly to the oil mills.

“Millers giving preferential treatment to coconut farmers’ cooperatives and the PCA providing shared service facilities in the form of warehouses which will be used as copra aggregating points,” he said.