Use part of P105B coco levy fund law for VCO production to spur industry growth: Pangilinan

AS senators continue to deliberate on the coco levy trust fund bill, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Wednesday said the potential of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as a possible cure for COVID-19 can be the impetus needed to develop the Philippine coconut industry, and more importantly, improve the lives of the poorest Filipino farmers.

“Sakaling mapatunayan ang bisa ng VCO bilang lunas sa COVID-19, malaki ang maitutulong nito ‘di lamang sa mga maysakit ng COVID, kundi pati na rin sa mga magniniyog na hanggang sa ngayon ay pinakamahirap sa lahat,” said Pangilinan.

“In order to meet the demands of a potential VCO cure, we would need to boost our production and processing capacity. That’s why now more than ever, the coco levy trust fund law that we will pass needs to put the farmer front and center,” added the former food security czar who also served as chair of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Board 2014-2015.

An April 2020 World Bank report listed the Philippines as the top coconut oil producing country followed by Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and Mexico.

In 2018 the Philippines produced a total 18,405.19 metric tons of VCO worth P63.92 million, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported.

PSA data also shows that of the top 10 agricultural exports of the country, three are coconut products (coconut oil, desiccated coconut, copra oil cake).

Despite these, Pangilinan noted: “The irony and the tragedy is that our coconut production and exports are number one or two but the poorest are our coconut farmers. This is the injustice that the coco levy fund law must correct.”

In an episode of Agri Tayo, the senator’s online show on agriculture, former health secretary Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan shared that three tablespoons of VCO, together with vitamin C, zinc, and melatonin, effectively stopped the transmission of the disease at the hospital and community level.

Clinical trials on VCO as cure for COVID-19 are ongoing, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Trials for suspected and probable cases are nearing completion and expected to finish soon, while trials for moderate to severe cases are still in its recruitment phase.

“Ang turing nga natin sa puno ng niyog ay ‘Tree of Life’. Umaasa tayo na itong VCO na nga ang magsasalba sa buhay ng ating mga kababayang may COVID, at ang mag-aangat sa kabuhayan ng ating mga magniniyog,” Pangilinan said.

As of September 15, the country recorded a total of 269,407 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The proposed measure on the coco levy trust fund is the very first bill that Pangilinan filed in the 18th Congress. He is also the principal author of the measure.