Coconut – the tree of life
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - February 4, 2013 - 12:00am

The coconut is a very beneficial fruit and tree to every Filipino. It is nature’s gift to us. It is the tree of life because from its seeds, its leaves, its bark down to its roots we find many uses to it. But we have neglected it. Instead of upgrading its quality and taking advantage of the many products (and by-products) we can develop to improve our economy, “Juan Tamad” (a.k.a the farmer/ the government) chooses to sit down and wait for the coconut to fall on their heads.

Last week we witnessed coconut farmers protesting against the “use” of the coconut levy fund by the government.

Watching the news, you would think that these farmers were going overboard. But when you stop and think about what the government is about to do with the funds, you definitely would understand why such reaction took place.

The plight of a coconut farmer is not easy. When the industry was booming in the sixties, the government seemed to take advantage of it. In the seventies, the industry suddenly experienced a downward trend. And while the farmers were struggling, Marcos and his cronies allegedly conspired to collect tax. To make the plan official, Republic Act 6260, the Coconut Investment Act, was enacted stating that: The act calls for the creation of a Coconut Investment Fund and a Coconut Investment Company (CIC). The objective of the CIC was to: (a) To fully tap the potential of the coconut planters in order to maximize their production and give them greater responsibility in directing and developing the coconut industry; (b) to accelerate the growth of the coconut industry and other related coconut products from the raw material stage to the semi-finished and finally, the finished product stage; (c) to improve, develop and expand the marketing system; and (d) to ensure stable and better incomes for coconut farmers. The money collected is the beginning of the Coco Levy Fund which later became the “Coconut Levy Scam”.

The farmers were promised that the tax money would help improve the coconut industry in the country. But instead of experiencing bountiful harvests and success, these farmers experienced hardship and in fact, almost lost their livelihood. The tax was just way too expensive for them to sustain their industry and no visible result came out of the “promised” development for the coconut industry.

I shall not go into detail anymore about the Coconut Levy Scam and who those Marcos cronies are because this story has been told repeatedly throughout time. But please read about it so you know the people behind the coco levy scam. The sad thing about it is that up to this day none of our presidents after Marcos has resolved this mess.

Instead, we have witnessed endless lawyering time immemorial even by our government officials. Quite hideous I might add. One would think that the government would sincerely work for the people and not for those with vested interests capable of hiring high-powered legal shysters, attorneys-in-law and attorneys-outlaw and the whining lot of false patriots who believe and loudly proclaim they have the monopoly on wisdom and virtue about this issue.

And now P-Noy has given his blessings to touch this fund to help finance the so-called poverty alleviation projects of the government such as the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program,” and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER). Sanamagan! Shouldn’t he clear things up first with the poor farmers? He must first talk to them and assure them of the government’s move or plan for the coco levy fund. He shouldn’t take them for granted.

In fact, because of the farmers fear on what is about to happen to the fund they have created in their minds a “coco levy mafia” existing in Malacañang. I guess they must be referring to the newly created Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy Funds. These farmers are obviously worried that this task force said to be pushing for a five-year “Poverty Reduction Roadmap of the Coconut Industry” (a program that costs around P11.17 billion) may not directly be helping the coconut farmers.

I hope P-Noy resolves the Coconut Levy Fund problem first amongst the farmers before he touches it. This move may be misinterpreted as using the fund for the coming May elections in the so-called “pa-pogi” points of this administration. I hope I’m wrong but you cannot blame the citizens of this country who have become paranoid of modern-day maneuvering made by government officials who choose to serve “self” before country!

*      *      *

The grounding of the American minesweeper USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef has put both the American and the Philippine governments on the spot. I am pretty sure the US did not expect such a disaster to happen and will punish those faulted US Navy men involved in the mishap.

The US government through the US Embassy in the Philippines and through US Representatives who visited last week already apologized. They know the magnitude of this disaster and are now working toward removing the ship as well as planning on the rehabilitation of the reef.

What is good about the United States is that they are confronting this issue and not running away from it. They clearly know their responsibility. Unlike other countries who have faulted us in the past and until this day have never shown us goodwill. Our very own government officials (mayors, governors, congressmen and even senators) who have entered negotiations in destroying Mother Nature, exploiting our land and seas are also never faulted for their corrupt practices. Cases filed against them just die a natural death and buried into oblivion like nothing ever happened.

If you want to protect the Philippines and its natural wonder, then make sure our seas are safe, secured and protected. Sanamagan! We do not even have patrol boats and well-trained patrolmen who can stand up to protect our waters. What about our beautiful beaches like Boracay; lakes like Tagaytay; and bays like Manila Bay and Laguna De Bay? What has the DENR done to protect them? Nada. Not to mention a portion of our once-protected forest in Subic which we have allowed Korean companies to abuse if not destroy.

And now you shout and curse the US? Aren’t they around to fix the problem? Have they turned their backs away from us? Did they run away? The best thing right now is to work together and make sure that negotiation for the rehabilitation efforts of Tubbataha Reef is reached. I also hope that the government will find better ways and means to protect our natural treasures from intruders or aliens who have no business in our islands. In the first place, this problem could have been avoided had our navy stopped the ship. The problem is that we have no facilities, equipment nor weapons to protect our land. Sad but true – and this is the reality!

AMERICAN AND THE PHILIPPINE COCONUT COCONUT LEVY SCAM FARMERS FUND GOVERNMENT INDUSTRY LEVY TUBBATAHA REEF
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