PRESIDENT Duterte is expected to sign the coconut industry development plan in early 2022, setting in motion the much-awaited utilization of at least P75 billion in coconut levy fund that promises to modernize the sector and uplift farmers’ lives.
Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Deputy Administrator Roel M. Rosales said the legally mandated Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP) is “nearing its completion” and is expected to be deliberated on by the PCA board in mid-December.
“If it is approved it will be submitted to the Office of the President since it is the President who will approve the plan. We do not have control over when the President will sign it, but he is expecting this since this is his promise to have an inclusive and comprehensive program for coconut farmers,” Rosales told coconut farmers during a Friday dialogue organized by the Ang Magsasaka Party-list.
“But,” he stressed, they do not see the matter being extended much longer, “and we expect that the President will approve it by early next year. Once the President signs it, we are all set and we are ready to immediately implement the plan.”
The CFIDP is mandated by Republic Act 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, which allows the management and utilization of the decades-long idle coconut levy fund.
Under the law, the utilization of the coconut levy fund shall be “in accordance” with the development plan. The law stipulates that the plan will “set the directions and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the coconut industry within 50 years.”
In fact, the submission by the PCA to Duterte of the CFIDP has been overdue since the law only provided a 120-day deadline from the effectivity of the law or until the middle of August.
Sources told the BusinessMirror that the submission has been delayed due to lack of manpower by PCA.
“I suspect that the delay is caused by the lack of manpower. Like the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund , the coconut industry plan involves a lot of agencies to coordinate with,” former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor told the BusinessMirror.
Montemayor said coconut farmers are becoming “impatient” with the implementation of the CFIDP, having waited for decades already for a law to utilize the coconut levy fund. Nonetheless, given the current schedule, he expects the implementation of the CFIDP to start in the first quarter of next year.
“Farmers are becoming very impatient. They waited already many decades for the law to be enacted. The implementing rules and regulations of the trust fund are already approved. Why is it taking so long?” he said.
Rosales assured coconut farmers that once Duterte approves the CFIDP, implementation of all programs under the CFIDP as mandated by law will immediately start.
“We have readied all the devices and methodologies for the immediate implementation of the plan. Let’s pray that it will be approved early next year so the industry may now start benefiting from the coconut levy fund,” he said.
“All the government agencies involved in the implementation of the plan are ready,” he added.
Under the law, the CFIDP shall take into account the mandated distribution of the annual allocation of the trust fund that includes development of hybrid coconut farms, training of farmers, research and promotion, crop insurance, farm diversification and credit programs, among others.