MANILA - The Department of Agriculture said Tuesday it has outlined projects for the use of the interest earnings of the coconut levy fund for the "strengthening" of the industry as President Rodrigo Duterte urged lawmakers to pass a measure for the fund's implementation.
The agency will launch a "massive" tree planting program as almost 100 million coconut trees in the country are now old and senile, said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
"We will use both hybrid both varieties and tall varieties. We will pursue a massive tree planting program," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
The country's coconut industry is recovering and makes up 4 percent of the agriculture's contribution to the economy, Dar claimed.
"With more than 3 million hectares of coconut farms ay ang dami natin sana makuha pag maganda lang yung ating mga proyekto at itong rehabilitation of the industry will unlock the potential of the sector," he said.
(With more than 3 million hectares of coconut farms we should be able to reap many produce if we have good projects and the rehabilitation of the industry will unlock the potential of the sector.)
Duterte in his 5th State of the Nation Address urged lawmakers to pass a measure establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund.
"We must utilize the coconut [levy funds] for the welfare our coconut farmers and the development of our coconut industry. I urge everybody --- both of the Executive Department pati ito --- that ito 'yung pera na nakuha doon sa na-sequester. And itong perang malaking ito, gagamitin ito for the welfare of the farmers."
(This is the money we got from what we sequestered. This is huge and will be used for the welfare of the farmers.)
Duterte last year vetoed the coco levy bill, saying it “may be violative of the Constitution and is lacking in vital safeguards to avoid the repetition of painful mistakes committed in the past.”
In his penultimate SONA, the President also mentioned a P66-B stimulus plan for the agriculture sector.
Dar said the fund would be used to increase the country's food sufficiency or production level and improve food markets and logistics, among others.
"Dito sa Metro Manila, gusto natin magpatayo ng malaking merkado na lahat po ng produkto galing kanayunan ay dadalhin dito sa 4 na malalaking merkado sa Metro Manila. Nakakonekta yan sa trading push sa iba't ibang probinsiya," he said.
(Here in Metro Manila we want to build big markets where produce from rural areas will be delivered. It's connected to our trading push in different provinces.)
Dar said the agency's Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita program which helped farmers sell their produce during the lockdown had P5.5 billion in total sales.