Press Release
March 13, 2018

Transcript of Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel with Sen. Cynthia Villar

Q: On the amendments to the Coconut Industry Development Act

Villar: We're passing the Coconut Industry Development Fund. Part of it is the coco levy fund, which amounts to right now, P75 billion in cash and about P30 billion in assets. One of the assets is UCPB. We're passing a law because that is the mandate of the Supreme Court, that we have to pass a legislation on what to do with the coco levy fund. Yesterday we passed on Second Reading the Coconut Industry Development Fund. But that legislation is not only about the coco levy fund. In that legislation,we mandated that the government should give P10 billion a year to the Philippine Coconut Authority. Kasi iyong coco levy fund is the money of the coconut farmers. So when it will be spent, it will be for the benefit of the coconut farmers. But the development of the industry should be given by the government, the fund for the development of the coconut industry aside from the coco levy fund. So the coco levy fund is to be used, there' s an enumeration of how it will be used-- for scholarship of children of coconut farmers, for their shared facilities program, para bigyan sila ng livelihood for supporting their association, and then for their training and so forth, yong personal nilang pangangailangan. But the P10 billion for the PCA will go to planting, replanting, fertilization, intercropping, credit, and all those things which will help the industry prosper.

Q: What will happen to UCPB?

Villar: It will be sold. Kasi ang desisyon namin, hindi naman magaling ang gobyerno sa pag-manage ng business, it should be given to the private sector. They will buy it from the government and the fund will go to the coco levy fund. All the coco levy funds will be invested in government securities para safe. Kasi kapag ininvest natin kung saan-saan baka mawala. Minandate namin doon sa bill na it could only be invested in government securities para nang sa ganoon it's safe. And the interest of the money will be the one spent for the benefit of the coco farmers. But the government will give P10 billion to PCA to make sure that the coconut industry is developed. Alam n'yo there are only 8 million crop farmers in the Philippines; 3.5 million are rice farmers; and 3.5 million are coconut farmers. They comprise 90% of all the crop farmers in the Philippines. So if you solve the problem of the rice farmer and the coconut farmer, we solve the problem kasi 90% sila of all the farmers in the Philippines.

Q: Kahit hindi interested ang children sa farming?

Villar: Alam mo, kaya hindi interested ang children, kasi they earn little. Sasabihin ng Tatay, anak mag-aral kang mabuti, pumunta ng Maynila at magpa-employ ka doon at huwag kang gumaya sa akin na mahirap na farmer. Now we are changing the mindset of the farmers, we pass the Farm Tourism Law. This is a sunshine industry in other countries. If you have a farm, you make it a tourist farm. So that you can invite tourists, you will earn from your restaurant, you will earn from your Pasalubong Center, you will earn from home stay kasi pwede mo namang gawin iyong bahay mo na home stay. They can stay there, you earn. At the same time, when you become a tourist farm, you can also become a farm school. Kapag accredited ka sa TESDA, iyong farm school mo you can earn from your farm school kasi TESDA will pay for the tuition of students and you will earn from that. So maraming source of earnings aside from your crops. Of course, we try to help them earn more from their crops like the coconut farmer, they will earn more from intercropping than their original coconut income. So we teach them intercropping. It says that if you intercrop your coconut with coffee and cacao, you earn additional P10,000 a month. That's not bad in addition to your coconut earning. And more addition if you are a farm school, tourist farm and what-not. So the idea is to make the model more profitable and competitive so that children of farmers will stay in the farm. Hindi naman lahat ng children, if you have 4 children, pwedeng isa lang. Sabi ko nga sa kanila, huwag n'yo nang pamanahan iyong pupunta sa city. Ang pamanahan ninyo iyong magi-stay sa farm para sila ma-encourage na mag-stay sa farm. Why will you give your land to someone who will abandon the land? Give it to someone who will stay in the farm and take care of it. Iyon ang ating model.

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