2.24.2016 Calauag, Quezon. — Over 200 small coconut farmers in Quezon Province participated in a dialogue led by the Federation of Free Farmers and its President Leonardo Montemayor, to discuss coconut levy issues, programs, and projects for food security and modernizations.
Coconut farmers’ leaders expressed many and lingering problems in the coconut industry, including farmer’s security of tenure on the land that they are tilling; low income because of fluctuating prices of coconut and coconut products; underdeveloped market; lack of subsidy to small farmers, especially in times of crisis; and absence of a sustainable programs for the coconut industry, noting the aging majority of coconut trees; and precariousness of jobs in the sector. They called for immediate and sustainable programs for the industry and their families.
“There are alienable and disposable lands. Why can’t these lands be awarded to small farmers like us immediately as government promised? Without land titles under our name, we have difficulty accessing government assistance,” said one emotionally-charged participant.
Former Agriculture Secretary and TUCP Vice President Montemayor agreed. “Government and concerned agencies shouldn’t be insensitive to the critical concerns of small farmers, especially as these directly affect the daily subsistence and survival of poor families,” he said.
FFF, a founding member of the TUCP, is the biggest national confederation of farmers, fisherfolks, and grassroots organisation in the Philippines.
Montemayor noted the serious concerns expressed by coco farmers, including unfulfilled commitments of the government and some unpaid wages for implemented projects.
“With the help of TUCP, we will follow up livelihood and promised assistance by government for coco farmers. The much coveted levy funds that now amount to billions should be put in good use benefitting small coconut farmers and their families first, before anything else. Transfer of land ownership to deserving farmers should be acted on immediately!” said Montemayor.
He reported on actions done by FFF in engaging the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Coconut Authority, other government agencies and politicians. He also reported on the inauguration of the FFF-supported food processing facility –probably the first in the region.
Montemayor expressed hope for better results in the next administration.
“We in the TUCP put gruelling hours and serious thought discussing our and the country’s best chance in the next six years and beyond,” said Montemayor, in reference to the coming national elections.
“Our best chance lies on committed and competent candidates with unsullied reputation. TUCP supports Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo because of our studied view that they are the most appropriate candidates to build on the gains in the economy and propel the country to equitable development,” said Montemayor.
He urged the coco farmers and their organisations to do the same.
Montemayor and TUCP pledged to hold follow-up consultations and meetings to report on the developments and actions on the concerns articulated in the meeting.
Also engaged in the forum were representatives from the Office of Congw. Helen Tan, Office of the Presidential Assistance for Food Security and Modernisation, and Philippine Coconut Authority.
TUCP Party List first nominee Roland de la Cruz, TUCP Director for Women Florencia Cabatingan and Director for Education Rafael Mapalo attended. ***