Farmers’ groups do not expect the Philippine government to deliver anytime soon the machineries urgently needed to develop the coconut sector even with the passage of the Republic Act (RA) 11524, also known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act or Coco Levy Act.  


         

In a text exchange, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) Secretary-General and Peasant Sector Representative Leonardo Q. Montemayor said with the passage of RA 11524, the government must now work double to respond to the needs of the coconut farmers.


        

(MB FILE, Keith Bacongco)

But at the same time, he is not keeping his hopes high about farmers receiving anytime soon the mechanization support that will be funded through the coco levy fund, which is the tax collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos administration.
        

The RA 11524, which took effect last month, paves the way for the release of the P100-billion coco levy fund and assets.
        

Based on RA 11524, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will be the lead agency tasked to handle the fund, while the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) is one of the government agencies to get a yearly allocation from the coco levy fund.
        

The law requires PhilMech to help in the establishment of shared facilities across the country for the use of small coconut farmers. To do this, it will be given an annual 10 percent allocation, or at least P5 billion, from the coco levy trust fund.
        

“PhilMech will have to network with farmers groups and other stakeholders and increase the number of personnel,” Montemayor told Business Bulletin.  
        

“It must work double-time to understand and respond to the needs of coconut farmers and their cooperatives. The whole process will take time and more funding,” he added.
       

 Just recently, several coconut farmers and farmers’ groups had a dialogue with PhilMech Director Baldwin Jallorina and PCA Deputy Administrator Roel Rosales. Montemayor said it was the farmers’ groups that initiated the meeting.
        

During the meeting, Rosales said that PCA will be holding consultations with the various implementing agencies (IAs) under RA 11524 and that coconut farmers’ organizations will be invited.  
        

He also told farmers to submit the names of their focal persons, who will be consulted and asked to help the PCA prepare the memorandum of agreement with PhilMech and other IAs of RA 11524.
       

The other IAs of RA 11524 include the Department of Agriculture (DA), Landbank of the Philippines (LANDBANK), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), among others.
      

 These agencies will all get an annual allocation from the coco levy trust fund, ranging from hundreds of millions to billions.
       

Aside from FFF, the other farmers’ groups that were in the recent dialogue with PCA and PhilMech include the Confederation of Small Coconut Farmers Organizations of the Philippines (CONFED) and KILUS Magniniyog.
       

On March 31, Jallorina assured that PhilMech can properly use and manage its annual allocation from the coco levy fund. 
       

This, because the agency now has to juggle its two major roles under RA 11524 and Rice Tariffication Law or RA 11203, which liberalized rice importation in the Philippines.
       

When RA 11203 was passed in 2019, PhilMech also had a hard time adjusting, and only after more than a year since the law was passed when the agency actually began purchasing and distributing rice farm machineries.
       

Moving forward, Jallorina said the agency will request additional funding from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) so it could hire more people ahead of the establishment of coconut shared facilities. 


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/04/19/delivery-of-coco-levy-benefits-to-take-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=delivery-of-coco-levy-benefits-to-take-time)