Senate approves coconut farmers trust fund measure

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    THE Senate on Monday afternoon passed on third and final reading a bill creating a trust fund for coconut farmers in the country to be taken from the selling of assets procured through the coco levy fund.

    Under Senate Bill No. 1396 or the “Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act,” the government is mandated to sell P75 billion of coconut levy assets in the next five years to create a trust fund for coconut farmers all throughout the country.

    The passage of the proposed measure would benefit approximately 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut-producing provinces owning not more than five hectares who belong to the poorest sector.

    Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he voted in favor of the measure but with reservations since the minority senators’ proposal to include a farmer representative and the secretary of the Department of Agriculture in the composition of the Trust Management Committee was not adopted during the period of amendments.

    Once the measure is signed into law by President Duterte, the Bureau of Treasury shall transfer P10 billion to the trust fund, P10 billion in the second year, P15 billion on the third year, P15 billion on the fourth year, and P25 billion in the fifth year.

    Five billion pesos of the trust fund will be used for programs of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), which shall be divided in varying percentages for planting and replanting of hybrid coconut seedlings and production of hybrid coconut seedlings; research and production of hybrid coconut seedlings by the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD).

    For training of coconut farmers and their families as listed in the coconut farmers registry in farm schools through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Agricultural Training Institute; research, marketing and promotion by the Bureau of Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development under the Department of Trade and Industry; for farm improvements through diversification and intercropping with livestock, dairy, poultry, coffee and cacao production by the National Dairy Authority and the Department of Agriculture, Native Animal Program, and High Value Crop Program.

    The initial fund will also be used for processing by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech); given to cooperatives or local government units, in the absence of cooperatives; to organize and empower coconut farmer organizations and their cooperatives under the Cooperative Development Authority; for credit programs of the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines; for infrastructure development to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways in coconut producing LGUs; for scholarship programs for farmers and their families to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education; for health and medical programs for farmers and their families; and for crop insurance to be implemented by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.