The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PHilMech) will be needing additional personnel to fulfill its role in the newly passed Republic Act (RA) 11524, also known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act or Coco Levy Act.  
          

In an interview with reporters last week, PHilMech Director Dr. Baldwin G. Jallorina assured that the agency, even if it currently has a lot on its plate, can perform its duty under RA 11524 as well as properly manage its annual allocation from the P100-billion Coco Levy Fund.
         

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 However, he said the agency will have to request again from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for an additional budget which will be used specifically to hire additional personnel.
          

In 2019, PhilMech had reached out to DBM so it could hire more people amid the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law or RA 11203, which liberalizes rice importation in the Philippines.
          

At that time, PhilMech’s absorptive capacity was put into question. This, since prior to the signing of RA 11203, which ordered P5-billion of the annual Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) to go into farm mechanization, the agency was used to only receiving P200 million to P300 million budget every year. 
         

“PhilMech is a very small agency,” Philmech Deputy Director Raul Paz said in an earlier interview, adding that the agency needed time to make room for additional manpower and equipment ahead of RCEF’s release.
        

 Because of this, among delays on the release of RCEF, PhilMech wasn’t able to purchase any single farm machinery for the whole year of 2020.
        

 This forced the agency to utilize P10-billion worth of RCEF funds all in one year last year.


With the recent passage of RA 11524, which will pave the way for the release of the P100-billion coco levy fund and assets, concerns were raised about the complicated and slow pace of the law’s implementation.

 Coco levy fund is the tax collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos administration. Such a tax was supposed to help improve the lives of coconut farmers, but it didn’t. Instead, it only made Marcos and his cronies richer.  
         

Under the law, PhilMech is one of the government agencies to get a yearly allocation from the coco levy fund for the establishment of shared facilities across the country for small coconut farmers. 
       

  “With regards to this, we will have P1 billion for the first year for the establishment of shared coconut facilities,’’ Jallorina said.  
         

“[We will do this] in coordination with PCA [Philippine Coconut Authority]. We will wait for the roadmap,” he added.  
        

 PCA, the lead implementing agency of RA 11524, is required to sign a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with PhilMech and other government agencies within 120 days of the law’s passage.
         

The agency must also come up with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP) within 120 days of the law’s passage. This will have to be approved by the President.

However, some farmers’ groups claimed they have not yet been consulted about CFIDP since the law took effect in late March.
 Meanwhile, PhilMech will receive P400 million under its regular budget for this year.

Jallorina said this will be used mostly for research and development, which aims to locally produce imported farm machineries.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/04/05/philmech-needs-more-personnel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=philmech-needs-more-personnel)