Coconut farmers decry 'restricted' funding for crop insurance

Published June 28, 2022, 5:46 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) decried the alleged restrictions on both the amount and sources of funding for the crop insurance coverage of coconut farmers.

In a statement, FFF noted that the Trust Fund Committee created under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act (R.A. No. 11524) and currently chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez recently allocated only P200 million – out of the P400 million allowed by the Act – for crop insurance. It further directed that future program financing be sourced exclusively from the said Trust Fund.

The FFF noted that the P200 million budget would only cover only 8 percent or about 200,000, out of the country’s 2.5 million coconut farmers registered with the Philippine Coconut Authority. It will insure one hectare per farmer, regardless of the actual size of the coconut farmer’s farm.

“Even if we double the coverage by reducing the amount of insurance per farmer or limiting the coverable risks, at least 80 percent of coconut farmers will still not receive any insurance benefit. Given this, why will Dominguez now ban other agencies such as local governments or the Department of Agriculture (DA) from pitching in and augmenting the subsidy from the Trust Fund?”, asked Raul Montemayor, FFF National Manager.

He said that Dominguez’ concern about “double-dipping” or securing multiple insurance coverages from various funds can easily be addressed by centralizing the issuance of insurance policies and the settlement of claims within the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC). The FFF urged President-elect Bongbong Marcos to rescind Executive Order No. 148 dated September 14, 2021.

The EO transferred the PCIC from the DA to the DOF, which FFF alleged as also illegally removing two of the three small farmers’ representatives in the PCIC board, and started the privatization of PCIC’s operations while reducing premium subsidies for farmers.

Then candidate Marcos had expressed concern over the EO’s likely adverse impact on farmers and the PCIC, which had been created under Presidential Decree No. 1467 in June 1978.

Meantime, the FFF also proposed a reconfiguration of Trust Fund Management Committee under R.A. No. 11524, considering the extensive powers given to the Secretaries of Finance, Budget, and Justice and the non-representation of coconut farmers on the management and utilization of the coconut levy funds.

“The millions of coconut farmers – deemed by the Supreme Court as owners of the coco levy Trust Fund – have been shut out of any decision on how the funds will be used. The Fund is now being administered by technocrats whose primary concern is the fiscal position of the government, and not necessarily the welfare of the coconut farmers,” said Montemayor.

The FFF further sought a review of the hasty merger of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) with the Land Bank of the Philippines earlier this year.

In an unprecedented move, FFF said, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas endorsed the merger but disavowed any liability should the merger be subsequently challenged by third parties, indicating a lack of due diligence in evaluating the LBP’s acquisition of UCPB.