Coco farmers seek meet on industry woes
LUCENA CITY—Just one summit.
A group of farmers said that was all it is asking President Duterte to call to start the process of improving their lives.
“There have been so many summits, but we need one very important summit—a summit of one of the poorest sectors in the rural area, the coconut farmers,” said Danny Carranza, secretary general of the group Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan).
The summit, said Carranza, should address mainly poverty gripping at least 3.5 million coconut farmers’ families, or more than 20 million Filipinos.
It should also be able to identify solutions to the failure of agrarian reform in coconut lands, where the land distribution backlog is from 400,000 to 700,000 hectares nationwide.
Increasing productivity in coconut farms should also be discussed in the summit, said Carranza.
“But the most important is how to manage and utilize the coco levy fund,” he said.
Although Mr. Duterte had promised to distribute the funds to farmers during the campaign, Carranza said there is now confusion over the administration’s real policy as a result of different statements by other government officials.
The summits called by the Duterte administration on other issues, like the slow recovery of areas hit by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), are signs that the President wants to listen to people, said Carranza.
“One important issue, however, is not being given the same prominence and importance—that of small coconut farmers and the reasons they remain dirt poor,” he said.
The struggle by farmers to benefit from the levy got a boost last week, when 16 senators endorsed a bill that would create the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund (CFITF) which would use more than P75 billion in levy to develop the coconut industry.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has set a nationwide registration of coconut landowners, farmers and farm workers from Nov. 7 to Dec. 15 in preparation for the passage of the CFITF bill.
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