Escudero: Tap P75 billion coco levy fund to help farmers in areas hit by ‘Odette’
MANILA, Philippines — Sorsogon Gov. Francis Escudero on Thursday said the government should hasten the approval of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP) in order to free up P75 billion in levy funds to assist coconut farmers and rehabilitate their lands ravaged by Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) last month.
“Umaasa tayo na ang CFIDP ay agad na maaprubahan bilang napakalaking tulong nito sa mga magsasaka sa industriya ng niyog lalo na sa panahong ito na may kailangan ding paglaan ang pamahalaan ng pondo para sa giyera laban sa pandemya,” Escudero said in a statement.
“This is the best time to use the coco levy funds to help our coconut farmers and the industry, and provide a shot in the arm, so to speak, that is necessary to revitalize the sector,” he added.
Under Republic Act No. 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is mandated to craft the CFIDP that will set the overall direction and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the coconut industry in the next 50 years.
According to the former senator, the funds can only be utilized once the industry roadmap is approved to cover the development of hybrid coconut seed farms; training and capacity building; scholarships; research, marketing, and promotion; crop insurance; empowerment of coconut farmer organization and their cooperatives; credit programs; infrastructure development; and a health and medical program for farmers and their families, among others.
Escudero, who is eyeing a return to the Senate through the election this May, issued this call after Odette caused vast damage to agriculture – approximately P12 billion, including P1.5 billion in the coconut industry.
He raised concerns that the funds provided by the PCA may not be enough to address the massive losses sustained by coconut farmers who are said to be the poorest among farm workers.
Citing the PCA’s regional office in Eastern Visayas, Escudero said damage to the region’s coconut industry was pegged at over P614 million as the super typhoon toppled or sheared over 10 million trees and wasted 57,367 metric tons of nuts ready for harvesting, thus affecting the livelihood of some 82,000 coconut farmers.
“Pinadapa ni Odette ang marami nating kababayan, kabilang ang mga magsasaka ng niyog. Kagyat na tulong ang kailangan upang mabilis na makabangon at pati na rin pondo upang buhaying muli at ayusin ang kanilang mga taniman,” Escudero continued.
“Hindi sapat at hindi kasya ang emergency relief funds na ibibigay ng PCA para makabangon ang magsasaka,” he added.
Escudero said the PCA released P2.95 million to assist coconut farmers in Surigao; P1 million in Dinagat Island; and P1 million in Southern Leyte intended to provide short gestation crops and small ruminants to provide food for the families of the farmers and for the consuming public, support the incentivized and participatory planting and replanting project, as well as fertilizers to rehabilitate damaged coconut trees.
An additional P480,000 was also reprogrammed by PCA for the repair of chainsaws and the deployment of generator sets and some 15,000 coconut seed nuts have been shipped to typhoon-hit areas, the former senator further said.
Likewise, Escudero noted that some P225 million for the PCA’s coconut fertilization program will be channeled at the moment to Mimaropa, Caraga, and Western, Central, and Eastern Visayas, regions where the coconut industry was affected by Odette in December 2021.
Meanwhile, around P34.4 million intended for the intercropping program will be used to provide farmers with short-term crops as they rehabilitate coconut trees, he added.
Coconut farms cover approximately 3.6 million hectares of agricultural lands in the country, dominating the landscape in 68 out of the total 81 provinces, Escudero said, citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
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