‘Coconut industry not a biodiversity threat’

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    The United Coconut Associations of the Philippines (UCAP) has hit back what it alleged are campaigns that paint the industry as a environmental and biodiversity threat.

    UCAP described as “vague and biased” against the industry recent articles which “practically indict the coconut industry, particularly the process of producing coconut oil, as an environmental threat, said to be worse than palm oil production.”

    “The transformation of Philippine landscapes to coconut began hundreds of years ago. At the moment, it is not expanding, rather, coconut areas are receding and being transformed into other land uses or mixed uses (agroforestry). Coconut-based diversified farms are turning into habitats for wildlife, particularly for birds and insects,” UCAP said in a statement.

    UCAP quoted Ateneo School of Sciences professor emeritus Toby Dayrit as saying “no rain forests have been burned in the past 200 years to plant coconuts.”

    Dayrit explained coconuts are “pioneer species in island ecosystems, and coconuts actually promote biodiversity in barren islands and seashores where no other plants grow.”

    The coconut industry contributes roughly $2 billion in export receipts to the Philippines, one of the world’s top coconut suppliers, and provides livelihood to about 3.5 million Filipino farmers.

    “Coconut, many times referred to as a low-cost but nutritious poor man’s food, is being used to manufacture VCO (virgin coconut oil) and MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil health supplements, beauty products, biodiesel, and even aesthetic decors,” it said.

    UCAP said the government should expedite its initiative to help the industry, amid the threat of near extinction of coconut trees, most of which were planted during the Spanish colonial times two hundred years ago.