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Coco replanting gets new coordinating body    2/27/2015 9:52:00 AM    ReadCount:542

A NEW inter-agency body has been created to fast-track coconut tree planting to replace the losses from typhoon Yolanda, with the 16 million uprooted trees replaced at a rate of only 20% more than a year after the storm.
The Task Force on Yolanda Coconut Rehabilitation and Recovery Program was convened last Feb. 9 headed by Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis N. Pangilinan to ramp up efforts to revive about 160,000 hectares of plantations ravaged by the typhoon, also known by its international name Haiyan, in November 2013.
“We organized the current Yolanda replanting efforts... Just so we can up the speed in addressing rehabilitation efforts,” Mr. Pangilinan told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
“We have to work double time. I’m not happy with it that’s why we reconstituted it,” he added.
Mr. Pangilinan, who holds Cabinet rank, made the remarks following the disclosure of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) administrator Romulo N. Arancon, Jr. that only 20% of the target has been met to this date due to a shortage of seedlings.
“The constraint is the number of seedlings available. They lost their seedlings there, so we are in fact buying seedlings from Southern Leyte, Mindanao, our research centers, and from our seed gardens. Sad to say, we are only about 20% of that target,” Mr. Arancon said.
Apart from replanting, the recovery program also covers debris clearing and fertilization of newly-planted trees, according to Mr. Arancon. Intercropping and livestock assistance will also be provided to the farmers to maximize the use of their land and increase profits.
The task force includes provincial heads from the three Visayas regions which were the hardest-hit areas of the typhoon, the PCA, and other government agencies.
“We are going have to fast-track that. The replanting needs a big budget, but we hope to be able to complete maybe more than half by the end of the year,” Mr. Pangilinan said, adding that the body will meet every three weeks for closer monitoring.
He added that the task force still had a balance of about P1 billion out of the P2.8 billion allocated by Malacañang for coconut replanting, which will be spent for the procurement of seedlings, chainsaws, wages for saw operators, and incentives for farmers.
The task force, however, is still “redoing their math” to check if there were any excess estimates made during the first stages of the rehabilitation plan, said Mr. Pangilinan.
Six deals signed at coconut summit
FOUR FARMERS’ groups and two local government units yesterday signed tie-ups with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) as part of an investment drive for the coconut industry, which the government wants to expand using new farming methods, business models and partnership arrangements.
“There are vast resources out there awaiting our investment,” PCA administrator Romulo N. Arancon, Jr. said in his opening speech during the National Investment Summit for Coconut-Based Farm Enterprises held on Thursday in Makati City.
“To increase the income of coconut farmers, they must diversify their farming system, add value to their coconut products, and think beyond copra. In this summit, we would like to explore the various agribusiness models and approaches, develop partnerships, joint ventures, PPP (public-private partnership) agreements to promote coconut-based enterprises in the countryside.”
Some 3.55 million hectares are dedicated to coconut farming, or 26% of agricultural lands.
Representatives from 35 rural cooperatives, 57 private firms, 28 social enterprise groups, local government heads of coconut-rich provinces and other government officials met to discuss outstanding issues and to compare notes on best practices in a day-long workshop.
The following deals were signed with the PCA:
• creation of a coconut sap sugar enterprise and coconut and cacao intercropping in the municipality of Alabat, Quezon;
• support for the production of export-quality tufted mats, carpets and other coco noir fiber products in the municipality of Javier, Leyte;
• support for the expansion of a charcoal briquetting project and coconut shell handicraft for the Kaagap Multipurpose Cooperative of San Francisco, Agusan del Sur;
• creation of a learning facility for integrated coconut processing for the Capiz Small Coconut Farmers Marketing Cooperative;
• support for setting up processing equipment for coconut vinegar, sap sugar, and coco noir; and
• the enhancement of production capacity for virgin coconut oil and coco flour.
“Working hand-in-hand is important for the betterment of the coconut industry. We want to give everyone the opportunity to connect various sectors that will boost the capacity of coconut-based enterprises and consequently help improve the livelihood of our coconut farmers,” Secretary Francis N. Pangilinan of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM) said.
Coconut is the country’s biggest export crop, though coconut farmers remain impoverished, Mr. Pangilinan said.
With the signing of memoranda of agreement, grants ranging from P1-P10 million could be given to cooperatives once they come up with concrete business plans to maximize production, Mr. Arancon told reporters in a press conference.
Farmers pointed to the lack of modern farm technologies, post harvest facilities and processing, and access to credit financing as among the problems that stand in the way of maximizing their harvest to generate more high-value products.
“Farmers must organize themselves into cooperatives. To us, it is impractical to talk to individual farmers,” said Efren G. Barlisan, general manager of seed and agricultural products company Cargill Philippines Inc., who was one of the presenters.
The grants to be given to the cooperatives will be sourced from the PCA’s budget for coconut development and forms part of the country’s Integrated Coconut Industry Road Map approved in August 2014, Mr. Arancon said, alongside other industry development programs of the agency.
The industry is likewise anticipating the issuance of an executive order which will formally allow the use of the P71 billion coco levy fund for the “direct benefit of coconut farmers,” Mr. Arancon said.
Following the Dec. 10 Supreme Court decision clearing the use of the money for coconut farmers, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III announced that he will soon issue an order to disburse the funds, which were taken illegally from public coffers.
Proposals to establish the coco levy fund as a trust fund for coconut farmers are also pending before both chambers of Congress.
Meanwhile, a task force will also be created to follow through the possible agreements that will be forged after the summit, Mr. Pangilinan said, with the PCA and OPAFSAM serving as the “broker and mediator” between farmers, the government, and the private sector to forge more coconut development programs.
By Melissa Luz T. Lopez