Returning the Coco Levy Fund will save the dying coconut of the Philippines – and so Order!

Written by Denis Somoso for the "All Voices" and "Rebuilding for the Better Philippines".

The doom's day of the Philippines' Coconut Industry?

Millions of Philippine coconut farmers crying for Justice of the Coco Levy Fund Scam which worth 150 BILLION pesos still elusive as the former administrations remain hesitant to help the poor coconut farmers of the country.

The justice of the Philippines still favors to the rich and keep rejecting the poor.

Last April 2011, the Supreme Court affirmed a 2007 decision of the Sandiganbayan and declared that another block of shares in San Miguel Corporation held by Cojuangco, which coconut farmers claimed were also bought using the coco levy fund, was the "exclusive property" of Cojuangco, a known Marcos crony and uncle of President Aquino.

The High Tribunal in its final decision also dismissed the motion for consideration filed by coconut reform activists and the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

The Coco Levy Fund Scam was a controversy in the 1970s and 80's in the Philippines involving the former President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies. It is alleged that Marcos, Danding Cojuangco, Juan Ponce Enrile, and others conspired to tax coconut farmers, promising them the development of the coconut industry and a share of the investments, but on the contrary were used for personal profit particularly in the purchase of United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and majority stake in San Miguel Corporation (SMC), to name a few.

The issue has not died today, with coconut farmers fighting for justice against the forced taxation, and a share of the Coco Levy Funds' investments. The Coco Levy Fund is estimated to have ballooned anywhere in the range of 100-150 billion in assets.  Face a growing crisis in their livelihoods, as their trees become too old to produce the fruit that is a mainstay of the country's exports.

More than 44 million coconut trees 14 percent of the national total are past their most fertile age, and without a sufficient replanting program the industry could be in trouble.

Euclides Forbes, administrator of the official Philippine Coconut Authority said the government does not have enough money to support the industry, on which 25 percent of the population depends, and private planters are not doing enough.

The victims of the Coco Levy Fund Scam is calling the Aquino Government to act fast to save the industry. If the Government don't have fund for this valuable Agricultural Industry of the Philippines then Aquino must support for the recovery of the Coco Levy Fund which is control by his uncle Dangding Cojuanco.

In the time line records, the previous Corazon Aquino Administration did not do anything to solve the scam. The Ramos Administration no comment, Estrada Administration don't know anything, Noy-noy Aquino Administration.. Might save the people? If he will not favor to his uncle!

Coco Farmer's Frustrations and farm conversion

During my last visit in Visayas and Mindanao, I met many coco farmers sharing their sentiments.  Some of them still hold the ticket of their coco levy share but some of them burnt it from anger. "The Government didn't hear us anymore" coco farmers' said. The poor don't have chance anymore to voice out. None of the President solves the scam.

Many of the frustrated farmers stop replanting and some other just cut the coconut trees for lumber and replace with rubber or make the land idle to neutralize the acidic land from using fertilizers for so many years. Many converted the land into a corn or rice field.

Another reason of their complain is the price which is too low when the sell the copra but when they will buy coconut oil, the price is too high and doubled.

Coco product continues declining – August 2011 Data Show

"If the trees are not replaced, the fall in our coconut production will accelerate. In three to five years, we will not be able to meet export demand".

Coconut products like dried coconut meat and coconut oil are the Philippines' largest agricultural exports, earning $1.508 billion dollars for the country last year, official figures show.

Coconut Authority figures show production in 2011 is expected to hit only 2.57 million tons, down more than 13 percent on 2010 while coconut oil exports will amount to only 1.5 billion tons, down 30 percent on the year earlier.

Forbes did not say how much the ageing coconut trees had cost the country but said the decline in production and exports this year could be traced directly to the old trees.

He warned the shortfall could force consumers to switch to alternatives like palm oil.

The Philippines has three million coconut farmers, but 25 million Filipinos -- more than one in four people -- are dependent on the industry, he said.

Coconut trees are considered mature when they are seven to 25 years old and typically bear 40-65 fruit per year, Forbes said.

He said many of the ageing trees are more than 60 years old and produce only 10 fruit a year and sometimes none at all, making them "senile".

The government is to spend 220 million pesos ($5.2 million) planting new trees next year, but this represents less than 10 percent of the old trees, Forbes warned.

Coconut oil shipments drop by more than half in August

Philippines' coconut oil exports dropped 57.8% annually in August due to lower copra supply, preliminary data an industry group.

United Coconut Associations of the Philippines, Inc. (UCAP) Executive Director Yvonne V. Agustin said that coconut oil exports for the month of August totaled just 54,199 metric tons (MT), down from the 128,507 MT recorded in the same month last year.

She said that in the eight months to August, volume of these shipments fell 43.6% to 561,725 MT from 996,618 MT the previous year.

She attributed the continued decline of coconut oil exports to lower production of copra- the dried meat of coconut from which oil is extracted.

Despite the continued drop of coconut oil exports, she said the UCAP is keeping its projection for exports this year of 900,000 MT, less than the 1.33 million MT actually recorded last year.

According to the United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP), coconut oil exports, one of the Philippines' major dollar earners, dropped by almost half in the first eight months of the year, as copra supply continued to tighten, industry group said.

UCAP executive director Yvonne Agustin said that preliminary estimates indicated that coconut oil exports fell by 43.6 percent to 561,725 metric tons in the first eight months of 2011 from 996,618 tons in the same period last year.

In August alone, CNO [coconut oil] exports reached 54,199 tons, down by 57.8 percent from the 128,507 tons reported a year ago. Month on month, the August figure was also lower than the July 2011 level of 77,738 tons.

UCAP noted that dried coconut meat, or copra, the raw material in making CNO, tightened after three years of good production that stressed the coconut trees.

The industry group expects coconut oil exports to reach 900,000 tons this year, lower by almost a third from last year's 1.32 million tons.

Earlier, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Euclides Forbes said the Philippines would have a hard time meeting its CNO export targets for 2011 despite the strong world market prices of the commodity.

The Philippines, which ships out about 80 percent of its production, is the world's top CNO exporter.

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