LEGISLATION authorizing the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund is expected to be approved within the year or by 2021, after the President threw his support behind the measure in his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said.

“There is now a higher level of enthusiasm to have this coco levy trust fund be set up and legislated. We will really work with Congress so that the legislation for the coconut levy trust fund is passed,” Mr. Dar said in a virtual press conference Tuesday.

A previous version of the trust fund bill was vetoed in 2019.

Mr. Dar said the Department of Agriculture has prepared productivity enhancement and social-protection programs for the coconut industry, including health insurance for farmers, which it plans to implement once the measure is given the green light.

It also plans to modernize the infrastructure used by the coconut industry and to accelerate the consolidation of farmers’ cooperatives to better prepare them to engage in agribusiness.

Mr. Dar said the budget for such programs will come from the earnings of the trust fund.

“It is high time to unlock the potentials of our coconut industry which is just contributing 4% of the country’s gross value added in agriculture,” Mr. Dar said.

“If my statistics are correct, the coco levy fund is almost P90 billion already,” he added.

During the virtual press conference, Mr. Dar said that around 100 million coconut trees across the country are beyond their productive years and need replacement.

“We are targeting to replace the old coconut trees with hybrid types such as aromatic varieties because they offer more profit for farmers,” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar said that some of the target areas for tree replacement are CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) and Leyte.

“More than 3 million farmers will benefit from the program once it is approved,” Mr. Dar said.

During his fifth SONA Monday, President Rodrigo R. Duterte urged legislators to pass a new bill establishing the trust fund.

“We must utilize the coco levy for the welfare of our coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry. Congress should look again, and try to sort out how best the money can be utilized,” Mr. Duterte said during Monday’s SONA. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave