FIRST-EVER ROLLOUT. Philippine Coconut Authority administrator Benjamin Madrigal Jr. says the rollout of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Program (CFIDP), held in Mati City, Davao Oriental on Thursday (Nov. 3, 2022), is the first-ever in the country. The CFIDP serves as the basis for the use of the coco levy fund through various programs and projects that would consolidate the benefits and ensure increased income for coconut farmers and farm workers. (PNA photo by Che Palicte)

MATI CITY, Davao Oriental – The first-ever rollout of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Program (CFIDP) commenced here on Thursday.

"This time around is the actual implementation of Year 1. We just started today because half of the fund was given in July," Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) administrator Benjamin Madrigal Jr. said in an interview.

After the enactment of Republic Act 11524, or the “Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act”, the PCA as the government agency primarily tasked to develop the coconut industry, led the crafting of the CFIDP in collaboration with the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Madrigal said the CFIDP serves as the basis for the use of the coco levy fund through various programs and projects that would consolidate the benefits and ensure increased income for coconut farmers and farm workers, alleviate them from poverty, and achieve social equality and competitiveness.

"This is actually the coco levy fund. The law said that a minimum of PHP5 billion should be given to the coconut farmers through the implementing agencies identified," he explained.

Under the law, the plan includes national programs for the social protection of coconut farmers, farm workers, and their families, farmers’ organization and development, innovative research projects and their practical application, community-based enterprises and integrated processing of coconut and downstream products.

Madrigal said the framework also provides directions for pre-implementation, coordination, implementation structures and mechanisms, financial and risk management, and monitoring and evaluation.

He noted that as the kickoff area, Davao Oriental is one of the biggest producers of coconut in the country.

Records from the PCA show that this province has about 112,767 coconut farmers and 144,620 hectares of coconut plantation.

About 68.2 percent of the coconut farmers owned less than two hectares of land.

In a video message, Senator Cynthia Villar said more than PHP75 billion from the coco levy would be rightfully given to an estimated 2.5 million coconut farmers in the country.

"Every year, there is a PHP5 billion or more budget will be allocated if the implementing agencies will follow their mandate as stipulated in the CFIDP," said Villar, the primary author of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act (CFITF).

She described the CFITF as a historic “game changer” that would change the country's coconut industry.

Villar also urged the coconut farmers to enroll in the National Coconut Farmers Registry System, which will be assisted by the PCA.

On the other hand, Basilio Adlawan Jr., federation president of the Small Coconut Farmers of Governor Generoso, said the launch of the CFIDP in the province was "a great milestone" that their forefathers had long been waiting for.

"More or less, four decades and finally the coco levy fund is here and within grasp," he said.

Adlawan said the enactment of the law would pave the way for the efficient use of the multi-billion-peso coconut levy to uplift the livelihood of millions of farmers and sustain the development of the country's coconut industry. (PNA)