The local office of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) wants to use seized coco levy assets to finance eight priority projects in Palawan to help farmers improve their skills on value-adding and reinvent the industry.
This comes after President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11524, also known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund (CFITF) Act, which created a trust fund for the country’s coconut industry and workers.
The PCA was required by the new law to create the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP), which would define the direction and policies for the industry’s development and rehabilitation for the next 50 years. The Bureau of Treasury had been tasked to transfer from the accumulated coconut levy at least P75 billion in the next five years to the CFITF.
Palawan PCA acting division chief Engr. Arlo Solando stated in an interview that shared facilities or processing facilities that are essential in the value-adding of coconuts, such as coco coir processing, are among their top priority projects in the province.
Coir is a natural fiber made from the husk of coconuts that is used to make floor mats, doormats, brushes, and mattresses. It’s a fibrous material found between a coconut’s hard interior shell and its outer covering.
“Ang isang medyo malaki na ina-eye namin doon ay ‘yong itong sa coco coir processing kasi meron tayong village level, kailangan lahat ‘yan ay ma-i-consolidate ‘yan. Possible (ay) sa south ang establishment niyan kasi mas malaki ang coconut production sa south. Kaya ‘yong isang malaking coir processing facility, dyan na maitatatag para ma-consolidate lahat,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) previously explained that RA 11524 mandates the creation of a 50-year CFITF, as provided under the CFIDP that is yet to be formulated by the PCA and has to be approved by the president.
Solano said that if the CFIDP is already signed, the implementation of the proposed programs will start in 2022 to 2026. If the programs proposed are approved, the eight projects will be implemented within five years.
The other projects are Village Level Coco Processing Centers, Copra Buying Stations, Trading Post/Centers, White Copra Processing Facility, Sap-based Integrated Processing Facility, Whole Nut-Based Integrated Processing Facility, Post-Harvest, and Processing Facilities for Intercrops
“Hopefully, before the end of this year kapag napirmahan, by January ay start na ang implementation. Kaya ang PCA ngayon ay nasa stage na ng pag-prepare, inaayos lahat ng kailangan maisaayos. Para bago matapos ang taon, put in place na lahat ng requirements sa pagpapatupad nitong (RA) 11524,” he said.
Value adding as PCA’s priority
Solano said that the PCA’s aim is to utilize all coconut elements into various products through the use of the programs supported by RA 11524.
According to PCA Palawan’s planned CFIDP program, which was approved by the Provincial Development Council (PDC), the number one priority is the husk-based and other goods processing facilities for coir, peat, and handicrafts, which would be implemented in Year 1 with a P10 million budget.
Solano said that the government decided to invest more in other possible coconut products for value-adding, such as coco coir, rather than virgin coconut oil (VCO), in order to prevent shortage in raw material sources due to competition from privately-owned VCO processing plants.
The second priority is to establish five village-level coco processing facilities with a P1 million budget per year from Year 1 to Year 5. Following that, three copra purchasing stations with a P5 million budget each will be established in the south, north, and Puerto Princesa for Year 2 to 4 implementation.
“Para kahit papaano ay (maengganyo) natin ang ating mga magsasaka na mag-engage sa enterprising, kumbaga sa ganiyang activity—sa copra buying station ay strategic siya, tatlo ang target namin diyan,” he said.
“Dito sa white copra processing facility, ang ine-encourage natin dito ay pagluluto ng copra through heat, ‘yong usok lalabas sa chimney, hindi directly sa meat. Kapag direkta ang usok, nagdadagdag ‘yon ng aflatoxin. Ngayon kapag tumaas ang level ng aflatoxin, syempre nakaka-cause din ng masama iyan sa kalusugan ng tao kaya part ‘yan ng isa sa priority namin,” he added.
The whole nut-based integrated processing plant, which is PCA Palawan’s eighth priority, is the most heavily funded of all the priority CFIDP projects, with P40 million set to be executed in Year 2.
Solano said that it was listed as the least priority due to existing big companies processing similar products.
“In-include pa rin namin kasi tuloy-tuloy ang pagtatanim natin ng niyog, massive planting, lalo pa ngayon sa (RA) 11524, i-implement namin ‘yong coconut hybridization program. Diyan sa coconut hybridization program, kasabay na rin ‘yong massive distribution of hybrid at coconut varieties. Kaya kahit sa least priority siya, time will come at kailangan na ma-put up ito, possible, pwede natin ilagay sa Puerto Princesa, malayo na rin sa Brooke’s Point,” he said.
He added that the law also encourages farmers to venture into intercropping, farm improvement, livestock integration, and not just monocropping.
50 years development plan
Every five years, the PCA must craft the proposed programs under CFIDP.
“Na-prepare na siya pero pinaplantsa pa. Iyan ay 50 years development plan, ang trust fund o pera out of coco levy, ang layunin niyan ayon sa batas ay hindi siya dapat mawala. I-invest siya ng gobyerno pero hindi siya mawala. I-invest sa coconut industry development throughout the Philippines pero hindi siya mawawala kaya, may investment na mag-generate ng income,” he said.
“Kasi itong coco levy, marami pa itong mga existing assets ngayon na kumikita. Kaya meron trust fund committee, may privatization committee, sila ang mangangasiwa in terms of pera para after 50 years, ang pera intact pa rin pero tuloy-tuloy ‘yong support sa ating mga magsasaka,” Solano further said.
The initiatives will assist the 31,000 coconut farmers who have enrolled with the National Coconut Farmers Registry System (NCFRS), with the hope of reaching 35,000 through continued registration. Only those coconut growers who would benefit from the initiatives under RA 11524 are registered under NCFRS.