Coco farmers seek representation in fund committee


    The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) said government should resolve in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) what it described as the deficiencies in the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund (CFITF) Act .

    President Duterte signed a law which mandates the creation of a 50-year CFITF that will make available P75 billion in funding that will benefit 2.5 million coconut farmers over the next five years.

    Leonardo Montemayor, FFF board chairman, said a farmers’ consultative mechanism should be set up with the Trust Fund Management Committee under the IRR .

    Montemayor took note of the absence of coconut farmer representation in the committee which will set investment priorities and themes apart from allocating assets and policies; evaluation of assets; issuance of guidelines for portfolio turnover and management expenses; and approval of financial requirements. ———

    The committee s manned by the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Justice.

    “Farmers have no clear say on the disposition of coco levy-sourced assets including CIIF (Coconut Industry Investment Fund) Oil Mills Group and the United Coconut Planters Bank.

    The new law also simplistically and inflexibly divided and allocated the yearly P5 billion budget among various government agencies,” Montemayor said.

    United Coconut Associations of the Philippines chairman Dean Lao Jr. is yet to comment on the law.

    The law reconstitutes and strengthens the Philippine Coconut Authority that is tasked to craft and implement a Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP) with a board t chaired by the secretary of the Department of Agriculture and vice-chaired by the secretary of the DOF.

    The CFITF is on top of the annual budget of the PCA.

    The law directs the Bureau of Treasury to transfer from the accumulated coconut levy at least P75 billion in the next five years to the CFITF: P10 billion each this year and in 2022; P15 billion each on 2023 and 2024; and P25 billion in 2025 plus any amount accruing, including interest of the coconut levy, in the special account in the general fund.

    At present, the Philippines ranks as the world’s second largest producer and number one exporter of coconut products.

    According to the DA, total area planted to coconut in the country has been declining and estimated at 3.6 million hectares in 2018 planted to about 347 million bearing trees that yield an average of 44 nuts per tree annually.

    Data from Philippine Statistics Authority also show that in 2019, the country produced 14,765,057.06 metric tons (MT) of coconut, slightly higher from the previous 14,726,165.43 MT.