"Our coconut farmers deserve nothing less."
Albeit symbolic, the handing over of the certificate of Republic Act No. 11524, otherwise known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, which happened this week in Lucena City, stresses that the ball is now in the court of the Philippine Coconut Authority.
Since the passage of the bill in February this year, we have been monitoring the developments on this law. The PCA has been reconstituted. Registration of coconut farmers is still open. Meanwhile, I believe that discussions with other agencies and stakeholders on the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP) are ongoing.
While PCA has been working on this with other agencies, I cannot help but be concerned about the duration of time that has already passed since the enactment of the law. We are nearing the end of the year. The initial CFIDP draft was reportedly presented during the National Coconut Week last August. On the other hand, farmer groups are still in the process of nominating their representatives in the PCA Board. Thankfully, there are already 3.1 million coconut farmers registered with the National Coconut Farmer’s Registry System of the PCA as reported.
I have been repeatedly calling for the proper implementation of this law. The coco levy trust fund law promises to make available social protection mechanisms as well as credit support to coconut farmers. While understandably it takes time to implement any government program, the pandemic underscores the lamentable situation of our coconut farmers. Although PCA has its own programs and projects for the improvement of coconut farming and production, I urge the agency to tap and maximize its resources in order to speed up the implementation of the programs provided for under RA 11524.
Moreover, I ask the agency to coordinate with farmer groups and local government units, especially in Quezon, where thousands of coconut farmers are supposed to benefit from the coco levy fund. While consultations are being held with various groups, I hope that our Quezon coconut farmers will also be truly heard. We have waited for a long time for the 76-billion peso coco levy fund to be utilized. Hence, it is crucial that the programs be as responsive as it can be to the needs of the entire industry.
Other agricultural crops and products are fully supported with responsive and timely policies and programs by the government. Meanwhile, coconut, despite being one of the primary agricultural export products of the country, is left on the sidelines. This law is the much-awaited chance of the coconut industry to be revived, improved, and fully developed. Hence, I hope that the authorities do not waste the money and miss the opportunity to improve the coconut industry and uplift the lives of coconut farmers, especially in this pandemic. The coconut farmers deserve nothing less.