CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — A group of farmers advocates has criticized the recent move of the Department of Finance (DoF) restricting both the amount and sources of funding for the crop insurance coverage of coconut farmers.
The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF), a group that advocates for the farmers’ rights, said the restriction is not helping those who are already burdened by the crises as they blame outgoing Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III for this action.
The FFF shared that the Trust Fund Committee created under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act (RA 11524) currently chaired by Dominguez recently allocated only P200 million – which is half of the P400 million allowed by the Act – for crop insurance. Dominguez further directed that future program financing be sourced exclusively from the said Trust Fund.
The P200 million budget, the farmers group noted, would cover around only 200,000 or eight percent of the country’s 2.5 million coconut farmers registered with the Philippine Coconut Authority. It will ensure one hectare per farmer, regardless of the actual size of the latter’s farm.
“Even if we double the coverage by reducing the amount of insurance per farmer or limiting the coverable risks, at least 80% of coconut farmers will still not receive any insurance benefit(s),” said Raul Montemayor, FFF national manager.
He questioned Dominguez’s move on banning other agencies such as local governments or the Department of Agriculture (DA) from pitching in and augmenting the subsidy from the Trust Fund.
Dominguez’s concern, Montemayor added, on “double-dipping” or securing multiple insurance coverages from various funds can easily be addressed by centralizing the issuance of insurance policies and the settlement of claims within the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).
An appeal to the new president
FFF urged President Bongbong Marcos to look into the plight of the country’s coconut growers by first rescinding Executive Order (EO) No. 148 dated September 14, 2021.
Engineered by Dominguez, the EO transferred the PCIC from the DA to the DOF, “illegally removed” two of the three small farmers’ representatives in the PCIC board, and started the privatization of PCIC’s operations while reducing premium subsidies for farmers.
During the presidential campaign, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr had expressed concern over the EO’s likely adverse impact on farmers and the PCIC, which had been created under Presidential Decree No. 1467 in June 1978.
The FFF also proposed a reconfiguration of the Trust Fund Management Committee under RA 11524, considering the extensive powers given to the secretaries of Finance, Budget, and Justice and the non-representation of coconut farmers on the management and utilization of the coconut levy funds.
“The millions of coconut farmers – deemed by the Supreme Court as owners of the coco levy Trust Fund – have been shut out of any decision on how the funds will be used. The Fund is now being administered by technocrats whose primary concern is the fiscal position of the government, and not necessarily the welfare of the coconut farmers,” Montemayor said.
The FFF further sought a review of the hasty merger of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) earlier this year.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas endorsed the merger but disavowed any liability should the merger be subsequently challenged by third parties, indicating a lack of due diligence in evaluating the LBP’s acquisition of UCPB. (davaotoday.com)