Senators want to give coconut farmers more time to register

SENATORS want to extend the deadline for the registration of coconut farmers who will benefit from the trust fund law and allow continuing registration for those who will not meet the set date.

The Senate committee on agriculture on Thursday tackled the status of the Coconut Farmers Registry, which under Republic Act No. 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act should be completed by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in 90 days or by June 11.

Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel proposed an extension of another 90 days to Sept. 9.

Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of the committee on agriculture, recommended to altogether lift the deadline and make the registration for the coco levy funds “continuing.”

Registration has reached more than 50% of the around 3.5 million target, Ms. Villar said. “My suggestion is it is a continuing registry since we have achieved ‘yung (the) more than 50% then we can go ahead with our coco levy fund distribution,” she said in the hearing.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, meanwhile, suggested maintaining a deadline to compel coconut farmers to register, but would still have continuous registration for those who cannot meet it.

PCA Administrator Benjamin R. Madrigal, Jr. said a total of 2.8 million farmers have been registered as of June 8.

He said this is composed of around 2.5 million farmers on record from 2015 to 2018 and around 315,000 new registrants. About 14,000 of those in the list were undergoing validation.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in February signed RA 11524 which allows coconut farmers to benefit from the taxes collected from them totaling about P76 billion during the Marcos administration. The law also sought to declare coconut levy assets as trust funds to modernize and rehabilitate the coconut industry. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas