Coco industry in PH still in worsening fix
Recent events have set the coconut industry slumping into deeper trouble.
In December 2012, Typhoon “Pablo” wreaked havoc in Mindanao. Millions of coconut trees in the municipalities of Davao Oriental, the biggest coconut-producing province, were practically wiped out, leaving farmers with no food and no source of income. Relief did come, but the more important issue of long-term recovery has yet to figure in. For lack of leadership in coconut industry development, some local officials have been reported to be looking into establishing oil palm plantations instead.
In November 2013, Supertyphoon “Yolanda” devastated Leyte and Eastern Samar. According to a Philippine Coconut Authority report, some 33 million coconut trees were felled by Yolanda. Coconut trees looked like “matchsticks” or “pick-up sticks” after the typhoon. As a response, the government distributed a thousand chainsaws, obviously for clearing purposes. Without any monitoring, whatsoever, the aid can actually lead to further devastation. Some coconut trees were spared by the typhoon. Some towns were even totally spared by the devastating winds. But now, with the proliferation of the chainsaws, even the surviving and standing trees are threatened. The area is still under relief operation. But then again, the long-term recovery of the third-ranking coconut-producing region appears to be nowhere in sight.
It was also in 2012 when the presence of coconut scale insects was reported in Batangas province. Today the whole of Batangas has been infested with the insects rendering the trees unproductive. Worse, the scale insects have spread to towns in Quezon province. The PCA claims that the area affected by the insect is but a small percentage of the coconut population, but it seems it has not found a way to solve the infestation.
The Luzon infestation and the Visayas-Mindanao devastation have evidently added to the already perennial problems of the coconut industry. Worst of all, they have pushed thousands of small coconut farmers into deeper poverty. These recent occurrences require immediate attention by government and should be enough to declare the industry in a crisis situation. But where is the PCA? Hardly has its leadership been felt in such a crisis. And such a failure may be equally attributed to the Department of Agriculture, the PCA being under its roof.
In the same breath, it would have been completely logical for the United Coconut Planters Bank and the Coconut Industry Investment Fund companies to have initiated long-term development efforts to protect the industry. Unfortunately, also under government control, they are nowhere to be seen.
The wake-up call on the industry is right smack in our midst, but government is practically sleeping on it. It is now up to the organized farmer sector to unite and force changes in these bureaucracies to save the industry and the millions of impoverished small coconut farmers.
Coconut Industry Reform Movement Inc.,
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.