Press Release
February 13, 2018

Villar sponsors committee report on increasing the coconut farmers' income

Sen. Cynthia Villar today sponsored the committee recommendations on how to increase the income of coconut farmers who are earning on the average, P50 a day, and who are among the country's poorest.

Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, sponsored Senate Resolution No. 569 under Committee Report 234, which seeks to look into the status of the programs of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) on the sustainable development of the industry.

"Hand in hand with the expected enactment of the law creating the coconut levy trust fund, the commitee has taken the initiative of consulting with government and private sector stakeholders to come up with consensus and agreements on how the income of coconut farmers can be increased," Villar said.

Among the recommendations on how to increase productivity of farmers is to promote hybrid coconut seedlings that can produce 150 nuts per year and encourage diversification, such as in the production of coconut water, coco sugar, coco coir, and coco peat.

Intercropping of crops will also be promoted such as coffee, cacao, cassava, banana and other suitable agricultural crops.

The establishment of farm schools that will provide extension services/ trainings/ education to coconut farmers on the cultivation, nurturing/ caring, harvesting, processing and marketing of coconut trees, its fruits, products and by-products. These farm schools will be supported by the Department of Agriculture, PCA and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Villar noted that reforms are urgently needed given that the Philippines has the lowest yield in coconut production among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, with only 4.4 metric tons as compared to 9.6 MT of Vietnam, 5 MT of Thailand, and 6.5 MT of Indonesia.

To support the activities to increase coconut farmers' income, the provision of funds shall be done through the appropriation of budget for the PCA in the General Appropriations Act and the use of the income of the Coconut Levy Fund.

Along this line, an amendment to Senate Bill 1233 or the Coco Farmers and Industry Fund Act will be proposed, which will provide a new section that will state mandated appropriations in the GAA for the programs and activities of the PCA.

In consultation with PCA officials headed by Administrator Romulo dela Rosa, Villar said the PCA budget will be earmarked as follows: infrastructure program, 20%; planting and replanting, 20%; intercropping, 20%; shared facilities, 10%; research and development (including pest management), 10%; fertilization, 5%; new products and marketing, 5%; and overhead, 10%.

Another amendment to the proposed Coco Levy Bill is to earmark the annual income of the Coco Levy Trust Fund for the following: shared facilities program, 35%; health assistance and scholarship program, 15%; empowerment of coconut farmer organizations and cooperatives, 15%; credit (thru LandBank), 20%; and farm improvement (to encourage self-sufficiency), 15%.

This earmarking of the trust income was supported by farmers' organization representatives Rene Cerilla (Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka) and Joey Faustino (Coconut Industry Reform Movement) during the committee hearing held in December last year.

To ensure the safety of the coconut levy trust fund and for assured returns, an amendment to the bill will also be proposed to mandate that the fund will only be invested in government securities.

"I will continue to push for caution and prudence in the manner of investing coco levy funds to ensure that the principal amount will continue to earn for the benefit of generations and generations of coconut farmers through low-risk investments," Villar said.

As to the rehabilitation of the coconut mills, it may be funded by either a budget in the GAA and placed with the PCA, or the proceeds of the privatization of some of the oil mills.

The Nacionalista Party senator recognizes the need to allow the sustainable development of the industry as it has the highest potential for growth through productivity enhancement, diversification, and industry value-adding.

"We remain true to our commitment to improve the lives of our coconut farmers. Our commitment is to pass carefully-crafted laws that will benefit coconut farmers in the long term," Villar said.

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