Press Release
February 28, 2018

Remarks of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto
During the Debate on the Coco Levy Bill

28 February 2018
First in a Series

Mr. President:

When it comes to diagnosing the ills of the coconut industry, I share the same findings with my esteemed colleagues.

Nine out of 10 live below poverty line.

The irony of their penury is best captured by this observation: Kung sino pa ang magniniyog ay siya pang minsa'y hindi makabili ng kahit isang kutsara ng mantika.

Not only are the coconut farmers always in financial ICU, many coconut trees are also in the throes of extinction. Many are withering, shrivelling and wilting.

About 44 million trees--or one in seven--are past their productive age. As a result, yield per tree has plummeted to 40 nuts a year from an ideal 75 nuts.

But it is in prescribing the solutions that we slightly differ.

I believe that if the industry is in crisis, efforts to revive it must be quick and massive. If the patient is in ICU, then the treatment must be immediate and in adequate dosage, so that the recovery will be fast.

If we bat for an intervention that is perpetual, it means that we are not putting up a deadline on when to cure the sick.

Why should we prescribe a drip-drip in funds - magkano ba, 4 to 5 billion pesos a year in interest income - on an industry which clearly needs much more.

Naghihingalo na ang industriya, mamamatay na sa uhaw, and we are giving him one tablespoon of water at a time to quench his thirst?

Ilan po ang coconut farmers natin? 3.5 million. Kung P5 billion ang yield a year, magkano ang per capita dividend per year? Kakarampot na P1,428 bawat pamilya.

In this age of the four trillion-peso budget, the P5 billion is what government spends in 11.6 hours.

29.4 percent lang ito ng pondo para sa travel.

This is supposed to be an industry rescue fund, of an industry in distress. So let us put a deadline, a fighting target on when their misery will end. Hindi open-ended. Hindi forever.

Even 50 years to me is a long time. It is equivalent to two generations. This is a cure that is perhaps the equivalent of a protracted people's war - walang katapusan.

In our history, we have been through great disasters and upheavals, but in rising from the ashes, we prescribed a shorter reconstruction time, because a quick turnaround is the best measure of success.

Pagkatapos ng World War II, sinabi ba ng mga senador ng First Congress na, "Bayan, perpetual ang reparations, na aabutin ng 50 years, or by 1995."

Nang pumutok ang Pinatubo, perpetual fund ba ang ipinangako natin sa mga naapektuhan ng lahar? I was a freshman congressman at that time. Ano ang promissory note? Help is on the way. It will be massive.

We did not offer a 50-year reconstruction timeline. We did not propose that by 2040, repair works will still be done. Ano ang sinabi natin? Pagpasok ng millennium, in place na ang mga solusyon.

We did not, for rehabilitation is slow motion fashion. Fast forward ang ating peg.

Sa ngayon ba, gusto nating forever ang rehabilitation ng Marawi? At walang katapusan ang reconstruction ng Yolanda?

In the case at hand, starving a troubled industry of funds is not the way to save it. It can only spend its way out of the doldrums.

We should not legislate out of fear, out of hurts inflicted by the past. Let us write laws instead, motivated by the good that we and the future can deliver.

I also urge my colleagues to consider a higher startup capital, and a faster disbursement timetable.

Especially now that inflation is rearing its ugly head. At 3.5 percent annually, the fund will lose one-third of its value in ten years, unless the erosion is neutralized by good fund management.

Ako, I believe in the can-do spirit of the Filipino, and of the coconut farmers. It is time for us to drop the tingi-tingi mentality, and dream big.

I often say that we must have a "man on the moon" goal. I am referring to Kennedy's vow to put a man on the moon before the 60s was over.

We must break free of the political culture which treats grandiose dreams as grandstanding. Kaya natin 'yan. Kung hindi natin kayang ibuhos ang tulong sa isang mas maikli na timeframe, paano pa natin magagawa ang mas komplikadong mga bagay?

Sa susunod na mga araw, titindig pa ako upang magpanukala ng mga probisyon para sa isang coco levy utilization that will have the following characteristics: Time-bound, safely invested, transparent, simply administered, under a system which increases farmers' representation in a PCA with expanded powers.

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