Escudero: Tap P75-B coco levy fund to aid farmers in Odette-hit areas

Published January 13, 2022, 4:47 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Senatorial aspirant Sorsogon Governor ‘’Chiz’’ Escudero has expressed hope that the government would expedite the approval of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP) to free up P75 billion in levy funds which could be used to assist coconut farmers and rehabilitate their lands ravaged by super typhoon ‘’Odette.’’

The Department of Agriculture (DA) recently reported that ‘’Odette’s wrath’’ caused almost P12 billion in damages to agriculture three weeks after it hit the country, of which P1.6 billion alone was sustained by the coconut industry.

Funds provided by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), however, might not be enough to address the massive losses sustained by coconut farmers, considered the poorest among farm workers, Escudero said.

In Eastern Visayas alone, damage to the region’s coconut industry was placed at over P614 million in production loss, according to PCA’s regional office, as ‘’Odette’’ toppled or sheared over 10 million trees and wasted 57,367 metric tons of nuts ready for harvesting, thus affecting the livelihood of some 82,000 coconut farmers.

“Hindi sapat at hindi kasya ang emergency relief funds na ibibigay ng PCA para makabangon ang magsasaka (The emergency relief funds given by PCA to help farmers are not enough),’’ he said.

Right after the typhoon, the PCA has released funds to provide short gestation crops and small ruminants to provide food for the families of the farmers and for the consuming public, support the incentivized and participatory planting and replanting project, as well as fertilizers to rehabilitate damaged coconut trees.

An additional P480,000 was also reprogrammed by PCA for the repair of chainsaws and the deployment of generator sets and some 15,000 coconut seednuts have been shipped to typhoon-hit areas.

It said some P225 million for the agency’s coconut fertilization program will be channeled at the moment to Mimaropa, Caraga, and Western, Central and Eastern Visayas, regions whose coconut industry was impacted by Odette. Around P34.4 million intended for intercropping program will be used to provide farmers with short-term crops as they rehabilitate coconut trees.

Republic Act No. 11524, also known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, which was signed into law by President Duterte in February last year, mandates the PCA to craft the CFIDP that will set the overall direction and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the coconut industry in the next 50 years.

Under the law, funds can only be utilized once the industry roadmap is approved to cover development of hybrid coconut seed farms; training and capacity building; scholarships; research, marketing, and promotion; crop insurance; empowerment of coconut farmer organization and their cooperatives; credit programs; infrastructure development; and a health and medical program for farmers and their families, among others.

Some 2.5 million small coconut farmers and their families are expected to benefit from the law, according to government.

“This is the best time to use the coco levy funds to help our coconut farmers and the industry, and provide a shot in the arm, so to speak, that is necessary to revitalize the sector,” he added.

Today, the Philippines is the world’s second largest producer of coconut products after Indonesia.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that coconut farms cover approximately 3.6 million hectares of agricultural lands in the country, dominating the landscape in 68 out of the total 81 provinces.

The PSA data in 2019 showed that Davao Region is still the top coconut-producer which contributed 14.4 percent to the country’s total production within the first quarter of that year.

Zamboanga Peninsula came in second with 13.6 percent and Northern Mindanao with 12.9 percent.