‘One big clue’ to solve the coconut levy puzzle
Concerned Filipinos are at a loss trying to solve a seemingly difficult puzzle: How the coco levy fund amounting to billions of pesos can be used for the benefit of the millions of coconut farmers and liberate them from poverty.
A lot has been said about this. The fact is, “one big clue” to solving this puzzle is found in a bill (House Bill No. 5070, “An Act Establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund to Provide Adequate Financial Protection to the Coconut Industry and its Workers”) proposed by Erin Tañada III when he was a congressman.
Recently, a draft order, dated April 7, 2014, “Providing Administrative Guidelines for the Utilization of the Coco Levy Assets,” was presented to President Aquino for approval. This will be followed by many such orders.
Here are some unsolicited suggestions based on consultations with actual coconut farmers.
As Tañada’s bill proposed, let’s establish a trust fund with well-defined management disbursement functions that will see to it that each and every field of activities to be financed by the coco levy fund shall have enough and accountable capitalization/seed money to start with. Since it is near-impossible to identify still-living Cocofed members and the heirs of all those already dead, the suggestion to redistribute the coco levy fund to its “rightful owners” seems inapplicable nowadays. Livelihood programs/activities that can surely provide income for coconut farmers and/or their families are preferred. Every part of the coconut can be processed for commercial production and sale. Properly done, this approach can demonstrate why the coconut is a tree of life.
For example, every coconut-producing barangay can put up a manufacturing plant for coco-geonets, which have many uses like preventing landslides especially in watershed areas. Or comprehensive training on the proper, sanitary and semi-mechanized extraction of coconut water can be conducted to pave the way for increased production of coconut energy drinks to fill the demand of both domestic and international markets. These two projects can guarantee additional income for coconut farmers.
But what about the Cocofed heirs driven out of their coconut farms and now engaged in other livelihood endeavors or now residing in other places; assuming they are identified, they might be lured back to coconut farming if they are convinced there is a viable livelihood awaiting back home, with some coco levy funds, to boot. But what about those who lost their livelihood to natural calamities? A certain portion of the coco levy fund can be allotted to allow them to engage in other income-generating initiatives.
And to be sure, some of it can be immediately used to lick the “cocolisap” infestation.
—CLARO Y. TALAGA SR.,