Senate passes bill giving coco farmers more seats in PCA board

MANILA -- Voting 18-0, the Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure, seeking to reconstitute the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Board to give greater representation to coconut farmers in the agency tasked to manage the PHP105-billion coconut levy funds.

Senate Bill No. 1976, which repeals Presidential Decree No. 1468, or the Revised Coconut Industry Code of 1978, puts six representatives from the coconut farmer sector in the 11-member PCA Board.

Under the proposed law which was authored and sponsored by Senator Cynthia Villar, the reconstituted PCA board will be composed of four government representatives, one industry representative and six farmer-representatives.

“This bill addresses the concern that farmers will not be adequately represented in the body that will manage the coconut levy trust fund. With six farmer-representatives in the 11-member Board, it is guaranteed that the interest of the coconut farmers will be protected,” Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said as she welcomed the swift approval of the measure.

SB 1976 complements the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act creating the PHP105-billion coconut trust fund, which has already been submitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signature.

The Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act puts the responsibility to manage and safeguard the coconut levy funds for the benefit of 3.5 million coconut farmers to a reconstituted PCA Board.

"Aside from the management of the coco levy fund, the reconstituted PCA Board would also be tasked to strictly implement the programs for the development of the coconut industry as earmarked in the bill," Villar said.

As provided by SB 1976, the corporate powers and duties of the PCA shall be vested in and exercised by a governing Board composed of 11 members, all of whom shall be appointed by the President.

The Board shall be composed of:

Four representatives of the government -- the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA) as Chairperson; the Secretary of the Department of Finance (DOF) as the Vice Chairperson; and as members, the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Administrator of the PCA;

One representative from the coconut industry sector who shall be chosen from a list of four nominees submitted by the PCA Board; and Six representatives from the coconut farmers sector, divided into two representatives each for the island groups of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. SB 1976 provides that farmer-representatives must be Filipino citizens, registered with the Coconut Farmers Registry, have considerable experience and reputable track record in promoting coconut farmer`s interest and welfare, and nominated by coconut farmers organizations or cooperatives that are active for the past three years in organizing and developing coconut farmers or in community enterprise development.

Farmer-representatives shall hold a term of three years. (PNA)