IN a bid to resolve the concerns of coconut farmers to access benefits due them from the recently passed law on how to use the 100-billion-peso coco levy trust fund, Senator Francis “Kiko’ Pangilinan enumerates several recommendations on how to hurdle the roadblocks.
“We don’t want any eligible coconut farmers, landless or owning land to get excluded. And number two, we want to make sure that those in the list are in fact legitimate and bona fide para makinabang dito sa naturang batas,” Pangilinan said in his opening statement in Thursday’s hearing on his Senate Resolution 736.
Under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, only coconut farmers registered on the National Coconut Farmers Registry System (NCFRS) will be able to benefit from the coco levy trust fund.
The law took effect on March 13, 2021 and mandated the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to complete the registration of coconut farmers and farmworkers within 90 days from its effectivity. Registration ends tomorrow, June 11, 2021.
To inquire into the status of the NCFRS, Pangilinan co-authored with Senator Risa Hontiveros Senate Resolution 736 which led to today’s Senate Committee on Agriculture hearing. In the hearing, Pangilinan expressed the concerns of coconut farmers on the said registration.
“There are concerns about the registration, including among others the use of English in the registration forms, what has been observed as the lack of information dissemination in far-flung areas…and also the short registration period,” said Pangilinan.
In its report to the Senate, the PCA stated that there are 314,104 new registered farmers in the NCFRS.
And if it added the existing list on their registry, the total number of registered coconut farmers would be 2,839,371.
The Senate panel agrees that this number is enough to start the programs in the law and release funds for it.
Pangilinan suggested to instead put a working deadline on succeeding registrations.
“Pwede nang ituloy ang pagrelease ng funds, pero mayroon working deadline para ma-enganyo ang mga farmer magparehistro. Kasi nakita natin dito tatlong buwan lang naka 315,000 na,” he said.
“Ang Pilipino kasi naghihintay ng deadline tapos last two minutes magre-register. It’s really a working deadline in order to get as many as soon as possible and that deadline does not mean that after that date ay wala na,” he added.
The Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act aims to improve the lives and increase the income of coconut farmers nationwide.
The trust fund will be utilized under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan.