SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go has expressed optimism over the enactment of Republic Act No. 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act which provides for the utilization of the Coco Levy Fund to benefit the country’s coconut farmers.
A co-author of the new law, Go said the long wait is over for coconut farmers who waited decades for the measure, adding that its enactment under the Duterte Administration is a testament to President Rodrigo Duterte’s compassion and concern for Filipino farmers.
“Napakatagal pong hinintay ito ng ating mga coconut farmers. Napakaraming administrasyon ang nagdaan at, sa wakas, ngayon ay pirmado na. Patunay po ito sa malasakit ni Tatay Digong sa ating mga magsasaka,” Go said.
Go also emphasized that the enactment of the law is a fulfillment of President Duterte’s campaign promise when he ran in 2016.
“Sa lahat ng commitments namin, pag ako’y nahalal, ibabalik ko sa inyo ang pera mula coco levy sa lalong madaling panahon,” then candidate Duterte said before local farmers in Catanauan, Quezon last March 30, 2016.
“Bilang isa sa mga malalaking producers ng coconut sa mundo, napakahalaga po ng coconut industry sa ating bansa. Napakarami sa ating mga magsasaka ang nakikinabang at nakasalalay ang pamumuhay sa industriyang ito. Kaya naman po nagagalak tayo na sa wakas ay may batas na na magsusulong ng kanilang mga karapatan at kapakanan,” he added.
Signed on February 26, Republic Act No. 11524 mandates the Bureau of Treasury to transmit P10 billion to the trust fund in the first year; P10 billion in the second year; P15 billion in the third year; P15 billion in the fourth year; and P25 billion in the fifth year.
Around P5 billion from the Coco Levy Trust Fund will be utilized for the plans and programs of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, including the training of coconut farmers and their families, and planting and replanting of hybrid coconut seedlings, among others.
Go said these programs will directly benefit coconut farmers and will promote the modernization of the country’s coconut industry, one of the biggest in the world. Notably, the Philippines is the second largest coconut producer in the world after Indonesia.
“Malaki po ang maitutulong nito sa tuluy-tuloy na paglago ng coconut industry ng Pilipinas na isa sa pinakamalaki sa mundo. Maiaangat din po nito ang kalidad ng produksyon at pamumuhay ng ating mga magsasaka,” he said.
Under the law, the Philippine Coconut Authority is also tasked to craft the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan which will “set the directions and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the coconut industry within 50 years.”
The said plan will also lay out the rehabilitation of the industry in the next 99 years, the suggested lifespan of the Trust Fund.
The Trust Fund seeks to establish facilities for the coconut industry and empower coconut farmers’ cooperatives and organizations. It will also be utilized for farm improvement, scholarship grants, and health and medical programs for members of the industry.
It also strengthens the PCA to ensure the implementation of the plan.
During a Senate public hearing on the measure in September of last year, Go asked its sponsor, Senator Cynthia Villar, as to the number of coconut farmers who will benefit from the measure. Villar responded, saying that the figure in 2017 is 2.4 million.
Villar also mentioned that the intended beneficiaries come from 67 coconut producing provinces, five cities and 1,346 towns in the Philippines.
Go sought assurance that the initial funding for the measure is enough to be able to uplift less fortunate coconut farmers.