Sen. Chiz Escudero wants policy reform to save dying coconut industry

Sen. Chiz Escudero is seeking policy reforms to help the Philippine coconut industry deal with the constant threat of climate change, infestation and ageing trees—challenges which are too big to be addressed under the 40-year-old law that created the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

Escudero said the government must update its policies to be more attuned to the current condition of the country’s coconut industry as well as the type of assistance and support for farmers in this sector.,

In Eastern Visayas alone, the government has to replace 13 million coconut trees that were totally damaged when Supertyphoon “Yolanda” devastated Central Philippines in November 2013.

Aside from the trees uprooted by Yolanda, the coconut industry also has to deal with ageing coconut trees and infestation, said Escudero, who last week visited Tacloban, Leyte, home to close to 350,000 coconut farmers as per data from the PCA.

“Most of our coconut trees in the country are about 30 to 40 years old. Matatanda na rin naman talaga sila. Panahon na para mag-replant tayo at magtanim ng panibago at siguro pagkakataon na rin ito para magawa natin yan dito sa Tacloban, dito sa Leyte at sa buong Region 8,” he said.

The veteran lawmaker noted that the Presidential Decree 232, which created the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is now over four decades old and has become “too deficient” to address the current conditions of the industry.

The last of subsequent legislations promoting the development of the coconut industry—Presidential Decree 1468—was issued in 1978, according to Escudero.

He thus appealed for the immediate passage of Senate Bill No. 2116, which seeks the creation of the Philippine Coconut Industry Development Authority (PHILCIDA) that will be tasked to help coconut farmers through marketing assistance and other extension services to boost their yield and expand their income.

SBN 2116 was filed by Escudero in 2014 as a counterpart measure of House Bill No. 1998 filed by Rep. Sharon Garin, aimed crafting the Coconut Industry Development Act to provide an up-to-date overall strategic guidance to the industry.

The bill proposes that the PCA be transformed to PHILCIDA, whose task is to develop measures to increase farm productivity, through planting or replanting of suitable seedling varieties, rehabilitation and fertilization of coconut, integrated coconut-based farming systems and product processing, and whenever necessary, the construction of related support and infrastructure facilities.

The proposed measure or “An Act Revitalizing the Coconut Industry, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for other Purposes,” also seeks to remove the corporate restriction of the PCA to make it a profitable, sustainable and development-oriented agency, according to Escudero, as he noted how agency has been receiving just less than two percent of the total allocation of the Department of Agriculture (DA) as annual subsidy.

Escudero said revitalizing coconut industry will benefit the government in the long run, citing the current high demand for coco oil and coco water in the international market.

“Hindi lang ang mga farmers at workers ang makikinabang kung hindi rin ang ekonomiya sa laki ng potensyal ng coconut industry sa bansa,” said Escudero.

Coconut farming covers 3,563 hectares or 26 percent of the total agricultural land in the country, and is the primary agricultural source of income in the Eastern Visayas and Bicol regions.

The industry produces an annual average of 15.2 billion coconuts, with over 24 million direct and indirect stakeholders in over 69 provinces in the country.


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