Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Benjamin Madrigal assured that the farmers’ representatives that will join the reconstituted PCA Board will be selected solely by farmers without the influence of the government.
In a phone interview with Business Bulletin, Madrigal assured coconut farmers that the selection and nomination process for coconut farmers’ representatives, as well as the selection of representatives per se, will be properly consulted with farmers.
Right now, the regional and provincial consultation on the proposed nomination and selection process for the three farmer representatives, one each from the three island groupings, in the PCA Board is already on-going.
To recall, the PCA is the lead implementing agency of Republic Act No. 11524, otherwise known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act or Coco Levy Act, which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this month.
The RA 11524, which will pave the way for the release of the P100-billion coco levy fund, ordered the reconstitution of the PCA Board, who will oversee the utilization and distribution of the fund.
The reconstituted PCA Board is supposed to be composed of six government officials and three farmers.
These government officials are the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture as Chairperson; Secretary of the Department of Finance as Vice-Chairperson; Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management as Member; Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry as Member; Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology as Member; and Administrator of the PCA as Member.
As for the remaining members, only one farmers’ representative for each island region – Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao – will be nominated.
Of the nominees, the President of the Philippines will have the final say on who will make it to the PCA Board.
Madrigal said the PCA expects the three farmers’ representatives to be named within the next two to three months.
In a separate interview, Joey Faustino, leader of the Coconut Industry Reform Movement, expressed concerns over the selection process of coconut farmers’ representatives, and that the government may select somebody who “will not complain and contradict” board decisions.
“Remember that it is the government representatives selecting, not the farmers’ groups,” Faustino told Business Bulletin on Wednesday.
“I am not even sure if PCA will coordinate with NAPC [National Anti-Poverty Commission] for this,” he added.
When asked to elaborate, Faustino explained that NAPC’s involvement in the selection process of coconut farmers’ representatives will be crucial in validating “that nominees are indeed small farmers or landless rural workers as defined by the new law”.
To recall, in a previous version of the Coco Levy Act, particularly House Bill (HB) 2434, the nominees of the coconut farmers’ organizations shall be validated and shortlisted by the PCA in consultation with NAPC.
This is also the same version of the law that wanted more farmers’ representatives in the PCA Board.
Based on HB 2434, aside from the three farmers representatives, two more representatives from the coconut industry sector who have “considerable experience and reputable track record”, shall be included in the reconstituted PCA Board.
Both provisions didn’t make it to the now effective RA 11524.
“NAPC’s sectoral councils and representatives are also presidential appointees. The specific farmer sector is called Farmers and Landless Rural Workers Sectoral Council. It also has a coconut committee within the sector,” Faustino said.
“NAPC is also basically a source of policy concerns by the sector. It, being a quasi-government institution, PCA can coordinate with NAPC also for the Industry Plan. I can only hope that the nominations and the planning would be made inclusive. Sorry to say but PCA is not known to have been so (inclusive) for more than four decades of existence. I do hope Madrigal can turn it around,” he further said.
Madrigal, for his part, said NAPC can still participate in the nomination process by asking their farmer constituents to register in the national coconut registry and eventually actively participate in the nomination process.
“They can join the regional and provincial coconut industry stakeholders’ fora that have already been established,” Madrigal said.
“The selection and nomination of farmer-reps will be participated in by coconut farmers through their farmer organizations, associations, and cooperatives at provincial, regional and island wide nomination,” he further said.