Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bill to revitalize coconut industry favors Bicol’s multibillion-peso coco coir industry — DA

PILI, Camarines Sur, May 7 (PNA) -– Not only will it accelerate the orderly development of the country’s coconut industry consistent with the agrarian reform policy of the government, the measure by Congress to revitalize the industry would also do a lot of favor to Bicol’s multi-billion-peso coco coir production.

This is how Department of Agriculture (DA) Bicol Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas sees the sidelight of the bill which the House committee on agriculture and food has recently approved.

The still unnumbered bill, which is a substitute to the earlier measures seeking to revitalize the ailing coconut industry of the country, removes the corporate restriction of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to make the agency profitable, sustainable and development-oriented.

Under this substitute bill, PCA will be equipped with solid and multifaceted mandate that focuses on developmental, governmental, regulatory, research and development, and corporate powers and functions, explained Rep. Mark Leandro Mendoza of the 4th District of Batangas, the committee chair, in approving it.

A counterpart bill, Senate Bill 2116, has been filed by Sen. Francis Escudero.

Mendoza said the reorganization of PCA also allows for more representation from the farmers, processors, traders, researches, scientists and the academe -- composing seven board seats out of the 11 board seats.

Moreover, since coconut is a long-gestating crop, it is also prudent to fix the term of the PCA administrator to ensure the full implementation of the policies and programs of the agency.

Hence, this measure fixes the term of the administrator to six years.

To implement the policy and objectives of this proposed Act, Mendoza said, the committee-approved measure creates and establishes a non-stock, government corporate entity known as the Philippine Coconut Industry Development Authority (PHILCIDA).

The PHILCIDA, the Batangas representative said, will be mandated to formulate and adopt a general program of development geared towards increased farm productivity through planting or replanting of suitable seedling varieties, rehabilitation and fertilization of coconut, integrated coconut-based farming systems and product processing, and whenever necessary, the construction of related support and infrastructure facilities.

It shall adopt a special program to maximize the yield of small coconut farmers and their farm families, particularly those farms covered by the agrarian reform program of the government;

Mendoza said the expanded powers allow the development and propagation of new discoveries and technologies which the government can capitalize on.

Another key feature of the bill is the inclusion of palm-based products and by-products, particularly palm oil, seeing the need to provide policy direction and support to the industry.

“The band-aid approaches have done more damage than good the past decades, and as changes in the industry and the environment in which it operates are becoming even more competitive and dynamic, it is high time that we respond judiciously and assiduously,” he stressed.

Bragas said that with the revitalization of the coconut industry on the horizon, Bicol’s coconut husks production whose existing market is now valued at P5 billion and a market potential of P12 billion per year will be directly benefited in favor of the region’s about 264,000 coconut farmers. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/