After decades-long of waiting, last February 26 (Friday), President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the landmark Republic Act No. 11524, otherwise known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Act. This law prescribes the management and utilization of the coco levy fund, the tax exacted from farmers during the Marcos Administration from 1971 to 1983 currently deposited in the national treasury
, and assets acquired through the said fund for the benefit of the coconut farmers and development of the coconut industry. With this, the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Coconut Authority (DA-PCA) braces itself to face new and enormous challenges of effectively implementing the law that aims to consolidate the benefits due to coconut farmers and sustain the development of the coconut industry.
DA-PCA Administrator Benjamin Madrigal, Jr said that as the lead government agency tasked to implement the coconut trust fund law, the Authority is poised to ensure that “the policy of the State to consolidate the benefits due to coconut farmers, especially the poor and the marginalized, under the various statutes and to expedite the delivery thereof to attain increased incomes for coconut farmers, alleviate poverty and achieve social equality,” as stated in Section 2 of the Act, shall be implemented to the letter.
Under the new law, a Trust Fund will be created which will be capitalized, managed, invested, utilized, and accounted in accordance with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP), to be crafted by the DA-PCA. This plan will essentially set the overall strategy for the development and rehabilitation of the coconut industry in the next fifty (50) years, and therefore must be a product of tight collaborative effort between the government agencies involved in implementing the law and the coconut farmers and industry stakeholders, as well as other civil society organizations and the academe. Along this line, DA-PCA has partnered with technical experts from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos, to come up with the draft Coconut Farmers and Industry Roadmap that will set the strategic direction for the progressive development of coconut farmers and the industry, in support of the crafting of the CFIDP, and this will be presented in the various regional and provincial stakeholders’ fora that DA-PCA has already established as a major consultation platform for this purpose. With the inputs and support of all stakeholders, the crafted CFIDP shall ensure that current and next generations of coconut farmers are capacitated into empowered “cocopreneurs” and will drive the coconut industry into its full potential.
In anticipation to the passage of the coco levy law and the enormous responsibilities that the Authority is bound to face, DA-PCA has undertaken significant organizational transformation initiatives that aim to transform it into a more efficient and capable organization that is responsive and proactive to the concerns of the coconut industry. To enhance its capacity to effectively perform its mandate, DA-PCA is following a comprehensive transformation roadmap under the Performance Governance System (PGS) of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA). The Authority is also undergoing critical organizational review in consonance with the provision of the law to reconstitute and strengthen the DA-PCA.
DA-PCA Administrator Madrigal said that, “this landmark legislation, made possible through President Duterte’s genuine concern for the coconut farmers and the perseverance of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who vigorously pursued the enactment of the law, finally brings to reality the aspirations of the entire coconut community for the past four decades. We, therefore, call on all coconut farmers and industry stakeholders to actively participate and work together to realize our common purpose of prosperity for our coconut farmers and a globally competitive coconut industry.” Agriculture Secretary William Dar, for his part, said that, “this is the legacy that the Duterte administration wishes to bequeath to succeeding generations of Filipinos – a modern, industrialized, and globally competitive Philippine coconut industry.”