We have taken this issue up some issues back. And we are taking it up again hoping that this can reach the consciousness of the people in government agencies that may have jurisdiction over the same.
We are referring to the other farmer sector that has been suffering for the longest time because of low farm gate prices – the coconut farmers of the country.
Yes, it’s been years already since the coconut farmers – big and small – have been complaining of losing income because coconut traders are virtually dictating the prices of coconut. The latest that we heard is that the current pick-up price of husked coconut is playing between P4.00 to P4.30 per kilo. And it’s been at that level for several months now.
Meanwhile, the costs of labor in harvesting, that is from climbing and picking the coco fruit to husking, hauling and piling have gone up almost 50 percent. These do not count the free snacks asked by workers.
Some six months ago, the coconut pickers/climbers charged P8 to P10 per tree. Now they collect from the farm owner P12 to P15 per tree depending on the height and the number of coconut trees they have to climb.
In husking the coconut the laborers used to collect P300 per one thousand fruits. Today the labor cost is playing between P350 to P450/1000 depending on the sizes of the nuts. On the other hand, the hauling and piling of the nuts in strategic locations of the farm now cost the farmer the minimum daily agricultural worker’s pay. And this is not to mention the ever increasing cost of farm inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and others.
But the worst inequity is on the disparity in the prices of coconut by-products that are used in every household every day of the farmers’ lives.
Cooking oil, washing soap bars, and several other household products derived from coconuts are competing with other consumer goods found in kitchens in increasing its retail prices on daily basis. We do not have any idea if the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has jurisdiction in providing interventions to reverse the sorry state of coconut farmers these days. But if it does have, then it should act now.
We believe though that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has the power to provide more effective and relevant interventions because the attendant problems that are now besetting the coconut farming industry are related to prices of the main agricultural produce and its processed by-products.
However, we think that it would be best that the Department of Agriculture (DA) would initiate a multi-agency consultative task force to work for more stable farm gate prices of coconut such as subsidizing farmer requirements for fertilizers and other farm inputs.
And perhaps the present predicament of coconut farmers can be one opportunity for the Land Bank of the Philippines to come into their rescue. Yes, this sorry state of the coconut industry can help make the government banking institution a real bank of the people who are toiling the country’s land resources.
More than half of the years of our life were spent in Mindanao. In all those years we were able to read every available material that deals with the history of our adopted home region. We also continue to refresh ourselves with the country’s historical accounts covering the Spanish up to the American and Japanese eras.
And what we were actually searching is even just a single Mindanaoan who had made it to the list of nationally-acknowledged heroes. Yes, we knew of men declared by local governments as heroes of their places. One is Datu Bago who was only recently officially declared the hero of Davao for his defiant stand against the attack of the Spanish conquistadores led by Don Jose Oyanguren.
Unfortunately, we have not found even a single name of a local hero acknowledged in the annals of the country’s history.
Most of the country’s heroes are from Luzon and the Visayas like Lapulapu of Mactan in Cebu, and Franscisco Dagohoy of Bohol. Well, we need not mention the more prominent ones but every Tomas, Ricardo and Hilario who had stepped into the elementary and high school grades know who they are and from where they come from.
This situation somehow, supports the notions harbored by some students of Mindanao history that there was only semblance of colonization of the island by the Spanish, Americans, and even Japanese; that there was no struggles for freedom from the colonizers significant enough to make its leaders worthy of national recognition.
Or, should we suspect that the Mindanao locals simply ignored the sacrifices of their forebears in waging defiance to the colonizers?
Imagine giving Datu Bago his official recognition as hero to Davaoenos less than a year ago and failing to give him a presentable and conspicuously located monument!