The Department of Agriculture (DA) is urging the passage of the proposed coco levy bill that aims to consolidate all assets and benefits from the coconut levy and create a multi-billion-peso trust fund for the farmers.
DA Secretary William Dar says Congress should support the bill because the country’s coconut production is posting a continuous decline.
“There is an urgent need to ratify Senate Bill (SB) 1396 or the ‘Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act’ to help the farmers,” Dar said.
“The transformation of the coconut industry requires getting our acts together by aligning our strategic measures. All of us need to look ahead and focus on the concerns of the impoverished rural sector, including the coconut farmers,” the DA chief said in an online briefing.
Despite being the second-largest producer and top exporter of coconut products in 2018, Dar explained that the coconut subsector only contributed a 4-percent gross value-added in the agriculture sector in 2019.
SB 1396 is a consolidation of the bills filed by Senators Cynthia Villar, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, and Imee Marcos that aims at creating a coconut industry trust fund that will guarantee an efficient use and management of the multi-billion-peso coconut levy imposed on farmers under the Marcos administration.
Aligned with the economic development cluster’s objectives, the bill also targets to strengthen the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan.
Meanwhile, Congress has yet to approve a substitute bill that consolidates 17 previous measures to establish a coconut industry trust fund.
According to Philippine Coconut Authority deputy administrator Roel Rosales, the total coco levy fund is now estimated at P80 billion, adding that billions worth of assets could be distributed to the farmers if the bill will be enacted.
Rosales likewise noted the dwindling areas and low yields are among the major reasons for the declining coconut production.