Senator Cynthia Villar aimed to push the coconut bill even after it was vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“This is very important for Mindanao because 65% of the coconut farmers in the Philippines are in Mindanao, and I think you are more of coconut famers than rice farmers,” Senate committee on agriculture and food chair, Senator Cynthia Villar, said in her speech, as she graced this year’s Davao Agri Trade Expo (DATE) on Thursday.
In February this year, President Duterte vetoed the consolidated House Bill 8852 and Senate Bill 1976, which seek to strengthen the Philippine Coconut Authority. One of the pertinent provisions of the bill is to add more representation for farmers in the PCA board.
“But anyway, we have talked to the Office of the President, we know what he’s not comfortable about and we have refined the bill,” she said.
The proposed bill wants to utilize the Coco Levy Fund to provide P5 billion a year to help the coconut farmers improve their farms. It will also give scholarships to their children, access to short-term loans, and assistance to their cooperatives.
“Two-thirds of the Philippine population is directly or indirectly involved in agriculture, and of course like in any other country with a fast growing population, food security is a paramount importance to us. We cannot ensure a food secure future for Filipinos without growing and developing our agricultural sector,” she said.
Villar also said that they will strengthen other value-adding initiatives like coco sugar and coco water. Meanwhile, the Philippine Coconut Authority can continue to push for intercropping with cacao and coffee.
“I checked the label of each product (coco sugar and coco water) ,and there was none from the country but only from other ASEAN countries. So we hope to develop our coco sugar and coco water processing in the Philippines,” she said.
“I firmly believe that the agricultural sector should always be a priority as I always point out that the Philippines is an agricultural country and it’s the best interest of the Philippines and the Filipinos to do so,” she also said.
The hearing for the coconut bill in the senate will start on Monday with hopes of passing the bill late this year or earlier this year.