The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) started the mass registration of coconut farmers to update the National Coconut Farmers Registry System (NCFRS), a concrete database of coconut farmers, ahead of the forthcoming release of the P100-billion coco levy fund.
In several announcements in social media, PCA announced that it is now conducting mass registration of coconut farmers.
This, according to the agency, is to update the current NCFRS list and accommodate new farmers.
“We’re still updating the registry system of the initially surveyed 2.5 million coconut farmers,” PCA said.
“We’re targeting to have it updated by 80 percent by March 2021. It will be a continuing process of updating to have a concrete database of the coconut farmers,” it added.
The registration involves all coconut farmers, including owners, owner-tillers, growers, tenants, tenant-workers, worker-laborers.
The registration is being held in PCA regional and provincial offices, and requires farmers to bring a valid government ID.
This came more than a month after the Coco Levy Act, the law that will pave the way for the release of the P100-billion coco levy fund, was passed on third and final reading.
To recall, under the Coco Levy Act, it will be the PCA that will be tasked to handle the controversial fund, the tax collected from coconut farmers from 1972 to 1982 by the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
In August, Pambansang Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP) Chairman Eduardo Mora told Business Bulletin that coconut farmers are against the coco levy money falling into the hands of PCA.
At the time, he even criticized the agency for particularly failing to come up with an updated registry for coconut farmers after so many years.
“Why do they want to give it to PCA? What we want is for the government to create a trust fund committee composed of many farmers. This fund should be under the OP [Office of the President] and farmers should have direct access to it,” Mora told Business Bulletin.
“PCA has a very poor track record in terms of supporting the farmers. I have nothing against PCA but it has been there for a long time and yet coconut farmers are still poor. Why are we trusting them with the implementation of the Coco Levy Act?” he added.
Mora’s group represents more than a hundred thousand coconut farmers in the Philippines.
Coconut farmers are now claimed to be “the poorest people in the agriculture sector” on the weight of low copra prices, farmers’ inability to intercrop and modernize, and with COVID-19 pandemic leaving some of them who are living in far-flung areas isolated.
“If you’re going to compare, we are much poorer now than we were back in 1990,” Danny Carranza, a coconut farmer and member of Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), said.
Carranza said the “crisis in coconut” that started in the 1990s was never resolved, but even worsened especially when farmers failed to diversify and intercrop before copra prices, dictated by world prices, crashed in 2019 and in the previous years.
“The price of copra is improving, reaching P16/kg from P8/kg last year, but that is still not enough,” Carranza said, adding that farmers’ income from a hectare of coconut plantation don’t reach P10,000 anymore.
Right now, about 95 percent of the 3.5 million hectares of coconut farms in the Philippines are meant to produce copra, which is used in coconut oil manufacturing.
But with the collapse of the prices of coconut oil in the world market over the last two years, prices of copra also dropped to the detriment of the coconut farmers.