President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing into law of a measure that seeks to create a trust fund for coconut farmers through the selling of assets procured through the coco levy fund would benefit the country’s 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut producing provinces owning not more than five hectares, said Sen. Cynthia A. Villar
“The coconut farmers are the poorest in the country. They earn only about P1,500 a month. This fund which rightfully belongs to the coconut farmers, should be plowed back to them for their own direct benefit,” also said Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on Agriculture and Food.
Villar, principal sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1396 or the "Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act," stressed this law is in consonance with the declared policy of the state to consolidate the benefits due to coconut farmers and to expedite their delivery to attain increased incomes for them and to alleviate poverty and achieve social equality.
She hopes this law will finally resolve the decades-old issue surrounding the coco levy fund. She said it will carry out its two-pronged goal—to help coconut farmers and develop the coconut industry.
Under Senate Bill 1396, the government is mandated to turn over P75 billion cash of the coconut levy assets in the next five years to create a trust fund for our coconut farmers.
Immediately after the passage of the bill into law, Villar said the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) shall transfer P10 billion to the trust fund and for the succeeding years, according to the following schedule: P10 billion in the second year; P15 billion, third year; P15 billion, fourth year; and P25 billion, fifth year.
Furthermore, she said fhe trust fund will be augmented with all proceeds of privatization or disposition of the Coconut Levy Assets remitted directly by the BTr and the Privatization and Management Office.
The Nacionalista Party senator said P5B of the trust fund will be used upon enactment of the law for the following programs. In addition to the programs of the PCA which will be given a separate budget.
• 15% for planting and replanting of hybrid coconut seedlings and production of hybrid coconut seedlings by the Philippine Coconut Authority.
• 5 percent for research and production of hybrid coconut seedlings by the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD);
• 8 percent for the training of coconut farmers and their families as listed in the coconut farmers registry in farm schools through Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Agricultural Training Institute to be shared equally;
• 5 percent for research, marketing and promotion by the Bureau of Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development under the Department of Trade and Industry;
• 10 percent to be shared equally for farm improvements through diversification and intercropping with livestock, dairy, poultry, coffee and cacao production by the National Dairy Authority and the Department of Agriculture; Native Animal Program; and High Value Crop Program to be divided equally;
• 10 percent for shared facilities for processing by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech); to be given to cooperatives. If there’s no cooperative in the town, it will go to LGUs;
• 5 percent for organizing and empowering coconut farmer organizations and their cooperatives under the Cooperative Development Authority;
• 10 percent to be shared equally for the credit programs of the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines;
• 10 percent for infrastructure development to be implemented by the, Department of Public Works and Highways in coconut producing LGUs
• 8 percent for Scholarship programs for farmers and their families to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education;
• 10 percent for health and medical programs for farmers and their families to be implemented by agency created by the Philippine Coconut Authority, for this purpose;
• 4 percent for crop insurance to be implemented by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation;
Under the measure, the Philippine Coconut Authority Board (PCA) has been reconstituted and strengthened to ensure the participation of coconut farmers in the crafting and implementation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan.
The PCA Board shall be composed of the Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture (as chairperson), Trade and Industry, Budget and Management, Finance, and DOST and PCA, and three farmer-representatives from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao