SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go commended President Rodrigo Duterte for fulfilling his campaign promise to return the coconut levy fund to the nation’s coconut farmers during a meeting by the Joint National and Regional Task Forces on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City, Quezon province on Thursday, October 21.
During the meeting, President Duterte, Go, and other officials witnessed the handover of a copy of Republic Act No. 11524, also known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, which provides for the creation of a trust fund for the country’s coconut industry and its workers. The funds were recovered by the government nearly ten years ago after decades of litigation.
“Napakatagal hinintay ito ng ating mga coconut farmers. Napakaraming administrasyon ang nagdaan at ngayon lang ito napirmahan. Patunay ito sa malasakit ni Tatay Digong sa ating mga magsasaka,” said Go, who served as a co-author of the law in the Senate.
“Malaki ang maitutulong nito sa tuluy-tuloy na paglago ng coconut industry ng Pilipinas na isa sa pinakamalaki sa mundo. Maiaangat din nito ang kalidad ng produksyon at pamumuhay ng ating mga magsasaka. Patuloy sana natin suportahan ang ating mga magsasaka at tulungan natin silang malampasan ang paghihirap na dulot ng pandemya dahil ang sektor na ito ang bubuhay sa ating bansa,” he added.
Go participated in the deliberations of the proposed measure in the Senate plenary. The bill was finally passed and signed by President Duterte on February 26.
The new law specifically directs the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to craft the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan which will set the overall direction and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the industry within 50 years.
The programs will cover such subject areas as the development of hybrid coconut seed farms; training and capacity building; scholarships; research, marketing, and promotion; crop insurance; empowerment of coconut farmer organization and their cooperatives; credit programs; infrastructure development; and a health and medical program for farmers and their families, among others.
To finance the programs and projects to be implemented, the law mandates the Bureau of Treasury to transfer PhP10 billion to the trust fund in the first year; PhP10 billion in the second year; PhP15 billion in the third year; PhP15 billion in the fourth year; and PhP25 billion in the fifth year.
The PCA is also reconstituted to ensure the participation of the coconut farmers in the crafting and implementation of the Plan. The composition of the PCA Board is amended to be composed of the Secretaries of Agriculture, Finance, Budget and Management, Science and Technology, and Trade and Industry; Administrator of the Authority; and three members of the coconut farmers sector to represent Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
A Trust Fund Management Committee will likewise be created to set the investment priorities and annual allocations of the Trust Fund and approve the financial requirements of the Designated Disposition Entities, which refer to the Land Bank of the Philippines, Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System, etc.
As the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the senator once more called on the Department of Agriculture to increase access to training and financing opportunities for the agricultural workforce sector to address the issues of unemployment, poverty and unequal economic growth.
“Marami pong nawalan ng trabaho at kabuhayan dahil sa krisis. Maraming mga Pilipino ang napilitang umuwi sa kanilang probinsya kung kaya’t dapat bigyan natin sila ng oportunidad pang-livelihood na akma sa kanilang lugar,” continued Go.
“Karamihan ng ating probinsya ay agriculture-driven ang lokal na ekonomiya. Magiging primary source ng kabuhayan ang agrikultura ng mga magbabalik probinsya kaya palakasin pa natin ang mga programang pwedeng magturo at sumuporta sa mga nais magsaka, mangisda, at iba pang kabuhayang pang-agrikultura,” he appealed.
The meeting was also attended by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Department of Public Works and Highways Acting Secretary Roger Mercado, 2nd District Representative David Suarez, Governor Danilo Suarez, and Sariaya Mayor Marcelo Gayeta, among others.
Earlier that day, Go also joined President Duterte in witnessing the inauguration of the Sariaya By-Pass Road in the same city. Running an estimated length of 7.4 kilometers, the road project begins at the Manila South Road – Daang Maharlika Road and ends at the Quezon Eco-Tourism Road.
It lessens the traffic volume in the Daang Maharlika by a significant 70%, benefits at least 15,000 daily commuters and reduces the travel time from Sariaya to Lucena City from 45 minutes to 10 minutes.