Press Release
August 31, 2016

Villar laments measly budget to help coconut farmers

Sen. Cynthia Villar said the proposed 2017 budget of the agency mandated to help the 3.5 million coconut farmers will not be enough to help the country's poorest of the poor.

Villar, vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the cut in the proposed budget of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) from P4 billion in 2015 to P1.27 billion in 2016 to P1.42 billion this year will not be enough to help coconut farmers who are living below the poverty line.

"Bakit ba tayo galit na galit sa mga coconut farmers na tinatanggal natin ang budget sa kanila when they are the poorest in the Philippines? They earn only on the average, P50 a day, or P1,500 a month. We should do something. We should do programs in order to improve that or else we will not reduce poverty in our country. Why is this happening?," Villar asked the country's economic managers during the briefing of the Development Budget Coordinating Committee on the P3.35 trillion proposed national budget at the Senate last Tuesday.

When Department of Budget and Management Sec. Benjamin Diokno replied that the budget cut was due to underspending, Villar said it is not the fault of coconut farmers if people in the PCA underspent their budget.

"Change the people in PCA so that they can help the coconut farmers," Villar stressed. Villar said even with the creation of the coconut levy trust fund which stands at P72 billion, and a 2-percent treasury bills income at P1.5 billion a year, the amount will not suffice to fund the necessary programs that will lift coconut farmers out of poverty.

"Akala ko ba yung coco levy fund is in addition to existing programs to help the coconut farmers? Iyong income sa coco levy fund hindi sapat para sa kakulangan sa budget ng PCA. Paano natin tutulungan ang ating coconut farmers? I just want an explanation because everybody is saying that we should help our coconut farmers because they are the poorest in the country and we are for inclusive growth. Bakit nagkaganito ang budget ng PCA?," she said.

Diokno said he will have the financial report of the PCA checked and assured the senator that it is the policy of the administration of President Duterte to fire people who underperform.

Villar noted that the agriculture sector workers are 11.8 million or 1/3 of the entire working population.

"Kung pababayaan ninyong mahirap ang farmers, hindi bababa ang poverty figure from 27 percent to 16 percent. There's no way kasi ang laki-laking portion iyan ng ating mahihirap. Kung hindi magi-improve ang performance ng PCA, we will have a hard time," Villar said.

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