Villar holds hearing on bill increasing farmer representation in PCA Board

Sen. Cynthia Villar today presided over the hearing on the accompanying bill of the measure creating the coconut levy trust fund which will strengthen and reconstitute the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Board.

Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, authored Senate Bill 1913 or the Reconstituted PCA Board Law. This repeals Presidential Decree 1468 otherwise known as the Revised Coconut Industry Code of 1978 and puts six representatives from the coconut farmer sector in the 11-member PCA Board.

“With this bill, we are already fulfilling a requirement of the coco levy bill which puts the management of the P105-billion Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund under a reconstituted PCA Board,” Villar said.

Villar also expressed confidence that this bill will be easily passed by the Senate when session resumes next month. A counterpart measure, House Bill 8079, was also filed in the House of Representatives.

Under the bill, the corporate powers and duties of PCA shall be vested in and exercised by a board of 11 members as follows:

a. Four representatives of the government, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture as Chairperson; the Secretary of the Department of Finance as the Vice Chairperson; and as members, the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Mangement, and the Administrator of the PCA who will be appointed by the President;

b. One representative from the coconut industry; and

c. Six representatives from the coconut farmers sector, divided into two representatives each for the island groups of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao as members.

The farmer representatives must be Filipino citizens, registered with the Coconut Farmers Registry, have considerable experience and reputable track record in promoting coconut farmer’s interest and welfare, and nominated by coconut farmers organizations or cooperatives that are active for the past three years in the farmers organizations and development or community enterprise development.

“This bill seeks to introduce an increased representation of coconut farmers in the reconstituted PCA Board that will ensure the protection of farmers’ interest in the agency’s decision-making process,” Villar said.

Last month, the bicameral conference committee approved the reconciled version of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act. The bill puts the responsibility to manage and safeguard the coconut levy funds for the benefit of 3.5 million coconut farmers to a reconstituted PCA Board.

“Mas maganda and reconstituted PCA para isang overhead na lang. Kasi mahirap iyong maraming committee, maraming gastos. So sini-simplify namin iyong management, para less ang operation cost at mas maraming pera ang mapupunta for the benefit of the coconut farmers,” Villar said.

Instead of putting a fixed term on the life of the fund, both panels agreed to allow the existence of the fund until it runs out. The panel also set P5 billion as the amount to be spent from the coco levy fund yearly. This is on top of the automatic appropriation of no less than P10 billion to the annual budget of the PCA which will be sourced from the General Appropriations Act.

The P5 billion fund will be spent for the following programs: shared facilities, 30%; scholarship program, 15%; empowerment of coconut farmer organization and their cooperatives, 15%; farm improvement to encourage self-sufficiency, 30%; and health and medical benefits, 10%.

The P10 billion allocated by the national government will be spent for the development of the coconut industry. This will be earmarked for the following programs: infrastructure, 20%; planting, replanting and establishment of nurseries, 20%; intercropping, 10%; shared facilities, 20%; research and development, disease control, treatment and eradication, 10%; fertilization, 5%; new products and derivatives of cococut oil products, 5%; and credit through LandBank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines, 10%.