Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos said Monday coconut farmers could fall deeper into poverty because of the low prices of copra.
“Copra prices are so low that our farmers are no longer able to live decently,” Marcos said.
She urged the government to release the P180-billion coconut levy fund to help resuscitate the coconut industry and help the coconut farmers recover.
“Our farmers have been waiting for so long to avail of the benefits due them through the coco levy fund. They should not be made to wait any further,” said Marcos, who is running for senator in the midterm elections in May.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the bill that was supposed to strengthen the Philippine Coconut Authority and address the problems besetting the coconut industry.
Malacañang says the measure lacks vital safeguards and does not fully use the coconut levy assets for the benefit of marginalized farmers.
“Instead of increasing the representatives on the PCA board, the Senate should have provided for the payment of loans which is allegedly the reason for the veto,” Marcos said.
“The immediate release of the coco levy funds was promised by the President during his first 100 days in office.”
Data from the PCA show that the average farm-gate price of copra has declined by almost 60 percent, or from P38.70 per kilo in 2017 to P15.52 per kilo last year.
The coconut industry is also suffering from slow replanting programs; the scale insect infestation that has hit the Bicol region, Basilan, Zamboanga peninsula and Romblon, and the government’s failure to adjust to the needs of the domestic market, which has been losing to Thailand in coconut water production.
As for rice tariffication, Marcos issued an urgent appeal that the farmers’ concerns against unbridled importation be addressed by the government.
“The shortfall in local produce is at a mere 1.5 million metric tons against the 12 million consumed annually,” Marcos said.
“Imported rice should be limited and timed not to enter the local market during our harvest season because this will push local prices to unbearable levels for our farmers.”