GOOD news for coconut farmers.
Two bicameral committee reports on bills related to the coconut industry were ratified in the House of Representatives.
The development is significant since it has been more than four decades that the Filipino coconut farmer has been fighting for the coco levy fund amounting to P76 billion.
The House of Representatives ratified the bicameral committee report on House Bill 5745 or “An Act Establishing the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund (CIDTF), Providing for its Management and Utilization.”
On the same day, the House also ratified the bicameral committee report on House Bill 8552 or “An Act Further Strengthening the Philippine Coconut Authority.”
The coco levy bill is authored by House Committee on Agriculture and Food chairman Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr., Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin, former Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte, among others.
The PCA bill, on the other hand, is authored by Panganiban, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Siquijor Rep. Ramon Rocamora, Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar, Deputy Speaker Arthur Yap, and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, among others.
Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, Jr. described the approval of the twin measures as “timely and necessary” given the continuous decline in the price of copra, a major issue facing the coconut sector for the past years.
“Copra used to sell over P40 per kilograms a few years back. Now, prices have plummeted to as low as P20 per kilogram. Paano pa mabubuhay ang mga magsasaka ng niyog niyan?” Andaya said.
The coco levy bill mandates the creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry and Trust Fund (CITF), which shall be for the ultimate benefit of coconut farmers and the coconut industry.
The measure grants a reconstituted Philippine Coconut Authority the powers to supervise and manage the money and the new Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan.
Six farmer representatives will also compose the board, including two each from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Another representative from the coconut processing industry sector will be included, completing the total of 15 representations in the council.
The coco levy funds have been stuck in court disputes until 2012, when the Supreme Court awarded the shares bought with the coco levy funds to the government to be used for coconut farmers and the industry.
Aside from helping farmers ride out low copra price cycle, the coco levy measure also aims to improve incomes of coconut farmers, who are among the country’s poorest, and improve productivity of farms, through replanting and intercropping with high yield cash crop.