Govt readies use of P75-B coco trust fund

THE new Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) board has convened to craft a plan to make efficient use of P75-billion coconut trust fund, following the recent enactment of Republic Act 11524 or the “Coconut Farmer and Industry Act.”

Two weeks after the signing of the new law, the six government representatives of the reconstituted PCA board last March 15 discussed the major provisions of RA 11524 that need to be undertaken by respective committees and government agencies that will oversee the completion of specific tasks.

The PCA Board, which is chaired by Agriculture Secretary William Dar and co-chaired by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd, has designated a corporate secretary and created a transition committee chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to help provide overall direction to ensure a coherent and coordinated approach to pursue plans for the development of the country’s coconut industry.

The board, which also serves as the Executive Committee (ExeCom), agreed that the transition committee will be absorbed later under the ExeCom.

The transition committee is tasked to help the ExeCom in transitional matters, including governance and management arrangements, and initial program of work, each with prescribed timelines, according to Dar.

“We are jumpstarting the process that will modernize and industrialize the country’s coconut sector, and greatly improve its export earnings with more value-added products.

This is a huge game changer, where all our efforts making use of the billon-peso coconut levy fund will lift our small coconut farmers and their families from abject poverty,” the Agriculture chief said.

Dominguez noted that the new law will pave the wag for agricultural modernization and financial inclusion for all local coconut farmers.

“Finally, the P75-billion coconut levy fund will now directly benefit the country’s 2.5 million small coconut farmers and their families, by way of a trust fund to be used for yielding more value-added coconut products and unleashing the full economic potentials of this industry,” said Dominguez.

“We will ensure that the multibillion-peso coconut trust fund will be used for programs and projects meant to transform the coconut industry into a major contributor to our country’s strong and sustainable recovery from the adverse economic impact of the pandemic,” the Finance chief added.

Farmers to be represented

To complete the nine-man PCA Board, the six government representatives will be joined soon by three coconut farmer-leaders — representing Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao — who will be appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte from four nominees for each island group.

During the meeting, PCA Administrator Benjamin Madrigal urged for the forging a memorandum of agreement between the PCA Board and several government agencies that will receive coconut trust fund allocation to implement various programs as provided for under RA 11524.

According to Madrigal, the PCA Board approved in principle the general concept of the nomination and selection process for the farmer representatives in the board. This concept shall further be referred to the farmer organizations nationwide for consultation through the regional and provincial fora already established by the PCA to get significant inputs from the farmers themselves before the detailed procedure is finalized.

“With the leadership and guidance of the newly-reconstituted and strengthened PCA Board, we are confident that the transformative reforms toward the modernization and industrialization of the coconut industry will be finally realized, directly benefiting millions of small coconut farmers,” Madrigal said.

The PCA Board also agreed on the major programs and projects that will be implemented using the P75-billion trust fund. Among these include the development of hybrid coconut seed farms and nursery for planting and replanting; shared facilities for processing; farm improvements through diversification and/or intercropping with livestock, dairy, poultry and cacao; credit programs and crop insurance; infrastructure development; organization and empowerment of coconut farmers’ organizations and cooperatives; industry research, marketing and promotion; and trainings, scholarships and health and medical programs for coconut farmers and their families.

Under RA 11524, a Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund is created, initially amounting to P75 billion, from the various coconut levy funds and assets held by the Bureau of Treasury and cash held by the United Coconut Planters Bank.