Coco farmers seek extension of listup deadline
LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — A coconut farmers group urged the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to extend the registration period for the National Coconut Farmers Registry System (NCFRS) because about a million beneficiaries might not be able to meet the deadline set on June 11.
Danny Carranza, coconvenor of Bantay Coco Levy Alliance, said in a statement on Thursday that a million or more coconut farmers across the country have yet to register since the NCFRS process in their villages has just begun or has not even started.
The group is a newly formed alliance of small coconut farmers’ organizations nationwide that aims to monitor the implementation of Republic Act No. 11524, or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act.
Carranza said their group strongly recommended that PCA extend the registration for another 180 days.
“This extension will give the PCA and volunteer-farmers who are helping fast-track the registration ample time to enroll as many coconut farmers and reach out to as many far-flung coconut farmers’ communities as possible,” he said.
Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), said many of the farmers in far-flung areas were not even aware that there is an ongoing registration.
RA 11524 requires the PCA to complete the coconut farmers’ registration within 90 days, or until June 11, from the time the law took effect in March.
Selecting beneficiariesThe registry will be the basis for selecting the beneficiaries of various programs, including those who will receive seedlings, loans, scholarships, training and equipment to improve production.
The programs will be funded by the more than P100 billion in levy funds and assets held by the government.
PCA administrator Benjamin Madrigal Jr., in a radio interview in Lucena City on May 29, said the 90-day registration period was provided in the law and any extension might require an action from Congress.
He said he had spoken to some lawmakers and they were considering if the deadline could be extended.
Under RA 11524, the registration has to be done annually to ensure that the information provided by the farmers are regularly updated.
But Carranza said “it is almost impossible to beat” this year’s June 11 deadline “since the PCA lacks manpower to undertake the massive registration of more than 3 million coconut farmers nationwide.”
“If coconut farmers will not be registered due to the failure to comply with the deadline set by law, will they be excluded from the programs and services under the said act?” he asked.
Carranza said small coconut farmers would be “extremely prejudiced” if they could not register at no fault of their own.
He said some 40,000 coconut farmers in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon provinces) were able to register after Magsasaka Rep. Argel Joseph Cabatbat and PCA regional manager Remon Rivera signed on April 30 a memorandum of agreement to speed up the process.
“Yet the effort has barely scratched the surface. There are thousands more needing to be registered in [the Calabarzon] area alone,” Carranza said.
—DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.
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