More R&D, scholarships expected for coconut industry from levy funds

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DAVAO CITY — The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will deploy more resources for research and development (R&D) and provide academic scholarships for children of coconut farmers with the anticipated allocations from the proposed the Coconut Industry Trust Fund.

House Bill 5745, which seeks to create a Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund with an initial P10 billion pool from the P75-billion coconut levy funds, was approved by the House of Representatives in September, and the Senate version is pending.

“If the bill for the utilization of the coco levy funds is passed by Congress, part of that will go to support higher education that relates to the coconut industry,” PCA Administrator Romulo J. dela Rosa said during the opening of CocoLink: 2nd International Coconut Conference and Trade Expo on Nov. 7.

Mr. Dela Rosa said industrialized countries invest heavily in R&D and scholarships to develop human resources in support in major income-generating sectors.

“We have failed to do that,” he said, noting that the Philippines lost its leading position in the industry in the 1990s as other countries developed their coconut oil sectors.

“We do not have a PhD (doctorate) program for lauric management, we do not spend on manpower,” he said. He was referring to the lauric acid found in coconut oil which is the basis for the product’s health claims.

“We didn’t have a coconut chemical industry to talk about because we didn’t have experts on lauric oils,” he added.

Mr. Dela Rosa said the government can initiate scholarship programs, especially for higher learning, for children of coconut farmers.

Mr. Dela Rosa also said there is a need to maintain and continually improve production standards, through R&D investment, to meet the requirements of international markets.

“We pride ourselves in saying that our coconuts are produced in an organic way. Unfortunately, our coconuts are organic by neglect since being a naturally resilient crop, (these) are produced with little cultivation and care,” he said.

With R&D, Mr. Dela Rosa said, the industry can multiply coconut yields up to four times using best practices.

One such program is the Coconut Seednut Supply Enhancement Project (CSSEP), in which the Davao Region Coconut Industry Cluster, Inc. (DRCICI) has trained farmers in the production of quality coconut planting materials.

With the training, coconut seed farms have been established in the Davao Region and western Mindanao using the extension manuals designed and developed by volunteer experts from PCA and the private sector.

“DRCICI is working on the development of IEC (information, education and communication) materials, coconut catalogues and techno guides on the production and processing of small-scale farm-based value-added processing,” DRCICI Executive Director Migdonio C. Camor, Jr. said at CocoLink.

Mr. Clamor said the cluster is also in the process of establishing five model farms to highlight sustainability, which could also become farm tourism sites. — Carmencita A. Carillo