The mass registration of coconut farmers who will benefit from the forthcoming release of the P100-billion coco levy fund will be a continuous process.
And the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) must issue a formal clarification on this matter to ease the anxiety among farmers who are not yet part of the registry, said Joey Faustino, leader of the Coconut Industry Reform Movement and KILUS Magniniyog.
Faustino said in a text exchange on Friday that PCA should announce the extension of the deadline on the validation of the National Coconut Farmers Registry System (NCFRS) as well as clarify to the farmers that the registration beyond the existing list of coco levy beneficiaries will be a continuous process.
“The interpretation that the farmers will not be a coco levy beneficiary if they are not registered before the deadline is wrong,” Faustino said.
“We had requested PCA to issue a written communication to clarify their initial messaging to the farmers,” he added.
To recall, under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act or Coco Levy Act, only coconut farmers registered on the Coconut Farmers Registry will be able to benefit from the coco levy trust fund.
Coco Levy Act took effect on March 13, 2021, and mandated the PCA to complete the registration of coconut farmers and farmworkers within 90 days from its effectivity.
This means that the mass registration must have already ended on June 11, 2021.
However, it was clarified during the Senate Committee on Agriculture hearing on Thursday that this is just a “working deadline” to encourage coconut farmers to register and for PCA to be able to list a substantial amount of beneficiaries prior to the actual release of the coco levy fund.
“The point is that registration will always be open for the entire life span of the Trust Fund and beyond. It is simply illogical to stop the registration,” Faustino said.
“PCA was given a task to list all the beneficiaries, not the power to choose who’s going to benefit from the law. I hope for a PCA notice or memorandum to be issued that can clarify, once and for all, this confusion that they had caused,” he added.
Right now, the PCA is still in the process of validating the existing NCFRS, which is the master list of coconut farmers from 2015 to 2018.
As of June 8, PCA has already updated and validated 1.3 million or 51 percent of the 2.5 million farmers included in the NCFRS.
On top of that, another 300,000 newly registered farmers were already part of the Coconut Farmers Registry.
On May 28, PCA Administrator Benjamin Madrigal told Business Bulletin that the slow pace of the registration is due to several factors, including the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions being implemented in many parts of the country as well as PCA’s small workforce.
“We lack personnel. PCA is a small workforce. We are only about 500 nationwide. Having what we accomplished in 75 days, updating almost a million [of farmers listed in NCFRS] is actually commendable,” Madrigal said, adding that some PCA personnel already contracted COVID-19 during registration activities.
He also said that some local government units (LGUs) are also questioning the PCA why it is conducting mass registration during lockdown.