Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the coco levy trust fund is a “powerful instrument” that will reinvent the coconut industry and ensure support for farmers amid the continuing decline of copra prices in the global market.
Dominguez said that while several measures have been implemented in the past to address the impact of the steady drop in the prices of copra and coconut oil, “there is perhaps no greater reform accomplished other than the enactment of the Coco Levy Trust Fund Law this year.”
Republic Act 11524, or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in February, marking the fulfillment of his promise to return the coco levy funds to their true and rightful owners – the coconut farmers.
With the coconut industry facing challenging times as a result of the continuing decline in copra and coconut oil prices, Dominguez said the government and other stakeholders should act swiftly and decisively now to create competitive businesses around the industry and ensure their sustainability for the livelihood of the country’s coconut farmers.
“With the Coco Levy Trust Fund Law in place, we now have a powerful instrument to revitalize and reinvent the coconut industry and support our coconut farmers,” Dominguez, a former Agriculture secretary, said in his message at the virtual Coconut Investment Forum held Wednesday.
The event marked the celebration of the 35th National Coconut Week organized by the Philippine Coconut Authority, under the leadership of administrator Benjamin Madrigal Jr.
The multi-agency Trust Fund Management Committee, chaired by Dominguez, is mandated under the law to oversee the management and use of the coco levy funds, whose cash assets now amount to around P76 billion.
“This Committee has convened twice already this year and is making good progress,” Dominguez said.
He said the TFMC has taken the initial steps in the implementation of programs and activities that will benefit coconut farmers.
These steps include the drafting of the guidelines for the disbursement of allocations in the implementation of programs, projects, and activities financed through the coco levy fund.
The programs, projects, and activities should be in line with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan that the PCA is currently finalizing.
Dominguez said that to directly benefit coconut farmers, the TFMC is looking at training programs on new technologies, crop insurance and credit access, while for the entire industry, it is ready to fund the development of hybrid coconut seed farms, research and infrastructure.
“I invite the participants in this forum to provide the Philippine Coconut Authority with inputs that will help us in the formulation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan. We intend to see this finalized at the soonest possible time,” he said.
Dominguez said that to avoid the “painful mistakes of the past,” the CFITF law is equipped with checks and balances to ensure transparency in the management and utilization of the coco levy funds.
Even as the CFIDP is being finalized, various government agencies are increasing support for coconut farmers, he added.
The PCA, for instance, funds several farmer programs using its own operating budget, and government financial institutions are also increasing financing support for the industry, Dominguez said.
Under the Coco Levy Trust Fund Law, the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines are the entities tasked to implement the credit programs using capital from the coco levy fund to support technology transfers, fertilization and intercropping as well as the manufacture of high-value products, such as coco sugar, coco water and furniture.
“We expect our state banks’ credit support programs to substantially grow in the coming period,” Dominguez said.*PR/PNA