A senator has filed a bill seeking to create a Coconut Levy Trust Fund to help boost the development of the coconut industry and alleviate lives of coconut farmers and their families.
“For more than forty years, coconut farmers have long been fighting for their rights, not only to access to the Coco Levy Fund but also for the opportunity to develop their industry,” Senator Bam Aquino said in Senate Bill No. 2467.
Earlier, Sen. Aquino supported an indirect initiative filed by Kilusan para sa Ugnayan ng Samahan ng mga Magniniyog or KILUS Magniniyog, calling for the creation of a trust fund from the coco levy fund.
“The livelihood of millions of coconut farmers depends on the coco levy fund so it must be used to uplift the sector,” the group said in a statement when it filed the initiative.
The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported that coconut farmers are earning just between P16,842 to P23,000 per year, a far cry from the P61,000 average annual net income of an agricultural household.
The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), for its part, said 41 percent of coconut farmers live below the poverty line.
“It is high time to change its narrative from one of the poorest sector in the country to a great economic driver and source of pride of the Filipino people,” added Aquino.
Aquino stressed that the P73-billion Coco Levy Fund will further advance farming technology and intercropping, which in turn, harness the coconut industry’s potential to address increasing demands and offer coco fiber, water, and oil, among others to new markets.
Earlier, the Supreme Court declared that the coco levy fund belongs to the government and should be used for the welfare of coconut farmers.
Aquino’s measure seeks to finance programs for the increased productivity of coconut farms, capacity building of farmers, research and development of coconut-based enterprises, and implementation of poverty-alleviation programs.
“The goal is to rehabilitate and revitalize the industry to stimulate production and attract investments that will make it again a viable, profitable and sustainable endeavor,” Aquino said.
In addition, the proposal seeks to modernize the farmers and stakeholders to make coconut production globally competitive and become a vital source of economic income for the country.
“It is thus urgent and important to provide the coconut farmers the enabling environment and proper opportunity to thrive and flourish, and be able to participate in building this nation” Aquino said.