Coconut authority or coconut society?
Last Jan. 25, a group met in Lancaster Hotel on Shaw Boulevard to discuss the recovery efforts in Tacloban City. In the process, the coconut industry was mentioned. Based on the records of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), 40 million coconut trees were destroyed by Super Typhoon “Yolanda.” The number of coconut trees in the Philippines is now down to less than 295 million, a significant percentage of these also senile.
A PCA paper on reenergizing the coconut industry was circulated. It was superficial and simplistic. The accuracy of its figures was even suspect. It dealt solely with the agricultural aspect. It was sophomoric, prompting the audience to call the PCA unflattering names like “Philippine Cocolumber Authority” and “Philippine Copra Authority.”
With administrator Euclides G. Forbes as PCA head, the coconut industry has suffered not just from natural disasters like typhoons, for which Forbes can’t be blamed; it has also suffered from a lack of vision, as shown by the narrow focus of the PCA workplan for coconut recovery. Incompetence is also obvious in the inability of the PCA and the Department of Agriculture to contain and cure infestations that are ravaging coconut trees in Calabarzon, which can spread to other regions after Yolanda. And neglect is evident in the slow PCA action in implementing the intercropping program announced by President Aquino in his 2013 State of the Nation Address.
In contrast to the shallow PCA paper, the proposal of Jun Castillo of the Philippine Coconut Society (and proprietor of Coconut House), which he presented as “The New Fresh Coconut Industry” (Fresco), espouses the development of coconut manufacturing beyond buko, niyog and copra to improve the incomes of coconut farmers and their communities. The Fresco approach could supplant the coconut industry’s “copra fixation” and free it from enslavement by greedy traders and lazy bureaucrats.
We hope that President Aquino can get a copy of the above-mentioned papers and study them closely. For us in the private sector, the PCA paper is little more than Forbes’ admission of his shortcomings, while Castillo’s proposal is something that we can all be part of, if we want to achieve an inclusive coconut renaissance. We hope that the PCA will adopt Castillo’s proposal as its own so that the Philippine coconut industry can create jobs and incomes that can persuade our overseas Filipino workers to come home.
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