September 25, 2011
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, welcomes news from President Benigno Aquino III’s U.S. trip regarding potential foreign investments in the Philippine coconut industry. The President disclosed on Friday that two U.S. companies, Pepsi Co. and Vita Coco, are looking to invest $15 million within the next four years, to meet the surging demand for coco water. The Philippines’ very own ‘buko’ juice is believed to be rich in electrolytes and minerals and could therefore be a healthier alternative to sports drinks.
With this, Pangilinan reiterates his call for the Department of Agriculture and key players in the coconut industry to save the country’s dying coconut industry.
“These foreign investments will mean nothing if our coconut industry is dead,” Pangilinan points out. “Earlier this month, we called on the Department of Agriculture to allow five billion pesos from the irrigation budget to help save the coconut industry, because no less than the Philippine Coconut Authority had said that our coconut trees are dying.”
According to the PCA, over 44 million coconut trees are already classified as “old and senile” and can no longer bear any fruit. PCA Administrator Euclides Flores was quoted as saying, “About 27 percent of the total agricultural lands [in the Philippines] belong to coconut. We have plenty of senile trees, those over 60 years old. Of the 230 million trees, 14 percent are old.”
The first order of business, Senator Pangilinan says, is to bring the coconut industry back to life.
“We need to revive this dying industry, invest the necessary government funding to boost coconut production and ensure the income of our farmers, and develop a roadmap for the sustainability of coconut production.”
“Aside from the U.S., let’s also look at other markets for buko juice and other coconut products worldwide, especially now that demand is on an upswing again,” Pangilinan adds.
The senator also points out that the bottomline for these efforts would be to lift coconut farmers out of poverty. While the Philippines is known for its coconut products, its coconut farmers earn only P30,000 a year.
“How can anyone live or raise a family on just P30.000 a year, or just P2,500 a month? This is totally unacceptable and unjust. With these new investments should come a resurgence in the coconut industry and a better life for our coconut farmers,” Pangilinan says. “Government and the private sector should make sure that we don’t lose out on this opportunity.”