The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is not yet finished drafting the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP), which will serve as the government’s ultimate guide in the distribution of the P100-billion coco levy fund and assets.
In the meantime, the agency launched the Coconut Farmers’ and Industry Roadmap (Coco-FIRM), which will serve as the foundation of a much detailed and longer CFIDP, of which the PCA is mandated to come up with under Republic Act No. (RA) 11524 or the Coco Levy Act.
In a phone interview, PCA Administrator Benjamin Madrigal clarified that Coco-FIRM is different from the CFIDP but will serve as the “backbone” for the latter.
As a start, he said Coco-FIRM has yet to specify the specific roles of all implementing agencies of RA 11524, as well as the criteria for programming and monitoring of projects to be funded by the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund (CFITF).
Madrigal said the crafting of the CFIDP is ongoing and may finish by the end of August.
To recall, RA 11524 was signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in February of this year and officially took effect on March 13, 2021. Its passage will result in the release of the P100-billion coco levy fund, the tax unjustly imposed from farmers during the Marcos Administration from 1971 to 1983.
RA 11524 mandates the creation of a 50-year CFITF, which will be used according to CFIDP. The law also sets aside annual allocation to several government agencies including PCA, as the lead agency tasked to handle the fund; Department of Agriculture (DA); Department of Science and Technology (DOST); Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA); Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK); Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); and Commission on Higher Education (CHED); among others.
These agencies are then ordered to take into account the distribution of the annual allocation of the CFITF, which shall be used for the construction of shared facilities for processing (10 percent); farm improvement through diversification and/or intercropping such as projects on livestock, dairy, poultry, coffee, cacao production (10 percent); development of hybrid coconut seed farms and nurseries, to encourage self-sufficiency (10 percent); and empowerment of coconut farmer organization and their cooperatives (10 percent).
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he already received a copy of Coco-FIRM, which was crafted with the help of a team from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos (UPLB).
“It was a product of painstaking consultations with various coconut farmers’ organizations, industry players, civil society, academe, concerned government agencies, local government units, and other stakeholders nationwide,” Madrigal said.
“In contrast to other commodities, a roadmap for the coconut industry is much more complicated, considering the many downstream food and non-food products that could be developed from the ‘tree of life.’ We are proud that we are among the first among DA bureaus and attached agencies to have completed it,” he added.
Madrigal said the Coco-FIRM has seven thematic areas, namely promotion of coconut farmers’ welfare and social protection; strengthening and empowerment of coconut farmers’ organizations and associations; increasing and sustaining coconut production programs; establishment of coconut farming systems such as agri-hub for coco products; enhancing global competitiveness of traditional and non-traditional coco products; expanding trade and marketing, and conduct of innovative research and development; and strengthening of institutional policies.
The Philippines currently ranks as the world’s number one exporter of coconut products, with average export revenues of P91.4 billion, from 2014 to 2018, according to the PCA.
Coconut is planted in 3.6 million hectares, mostly in 69 provinces, where there are 347 million fruit-bearing trees that produced in 2019 14.8 million metric tons (MMT) in copra terms.
That year, coconut export products totaled 2 MMT in copra terms, led by coconut oil, copra meal, desiccated coconut, and oleochemicals, according to the United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP).
The country’s top three producing regions are Davao, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Northern Mindanao.