MANILA, September 6, 2014 — A Catholic priest pressed the government to fast track its rehabilitation of storm-ravaged coconut farms and provide farmers with alternative livelihood sources.
Fr. Edu Gariguez of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action- Justice and Peace (Nassa) said farmers from areas which have been affected by typhoon Yolanda and other calamities have yet to receive any rehabilitation from the government.
Despite the P2.8 billion fund released several months ago to the Philippine Coconut Authority for the rehabilitation of coconut farms hardest hit by typhoon Yolanda, coconut lands remain idle, he said.
Gariguez said farmers complain that up to now, they have not received any assistance from the PCA after successive typhoons that have left them jobless, homeless, and starving.
“It’s very high time for President Aquino to give us a very clear direction as to what the Aquino government is planning to do with the intended fund for rehabilitation of coconut farms. There are around 3.5 million coconut farmers in the country, while 25 percent of rural folks depend on copra earnings for their sustenance,” Gariguez said.
Coco Levy Fund question
The Eastern Visayas region, in particular, accounts for no less than 12% of total coconut hectarage in the country, meaning 434 thousand hectares out of the estimated 3.5 million hectares, planted with some 46 million trees.
It is estimated that some 300,000 families were affected directly and indirectly by the devastation of coconut farms, mostly located along the shorelines, particularly by typhoon Yolanda which made its first landfall in Guiuan, Borongan, Eastern Samar last year.
“We can use the fund for the livelihood and rehabilitation of the coconut areas in all typhoon affected areas. Farmers can intercrop while waiting for the coconut trees to grow. It could alleviate the miserable condition of coconut farmers,” Fr. Gariguez said.
“Poor coconut farmers should be the ones benefitting from every single centavo of the public fund, not only a few,” he added.
Nassa also challenged President Benigno Aquino III to do something about the escrowed P73-billion Coconut Levy Fund. Ever since the Supreme Court (SC) ruled with finality that the coco-levy funds belong to the government, the administration “has been mute” on its plans for its use. (CBCPNews)