Roughed up like a rag, PCA back in harness
August 20, 2019 - Tuesday 4:08 AM by Jimmy Laking
“To farmers, it was a period when copra prices dipped to their lowest and yielded no income even as we sit here today. It was a period when production areas like Davao Oriental were at a loss on how and why it came about during President Digong’s watch.”
If there is one government agency greatly relieved by the turn of events at the Department of Agriculture, it would be the Philippine Coconut Authority.
In fact, even that is an understatement. For probably unknown to President Digong, the PCA has been in complete disarray in the years that Emmanuel Piñol held the agricultural portfolio.
To farmers, it was a period when copra prices dipped to their lowest and yielded no income even as we sit here today. It was a period when production areas like Davao Oriental were at a loss on how and why it came about during President Digong’s watch.
Worse still, not a single government office could come up with an explanation on what exactly was going on and on what was being done to address such a nationwide concern.
Now the cat is out of the bag. According to Roque Quimpan, a member of the PCA’s board of directors, the government agency was in a state of inaction or negligence in the years Piñol was DA czar.
“I can say that in his face,” said Quimpan.
Worse yet, the board of directors’ salaries were frozen during a period of nine months as Piñol, in his capacity as chairman of the PCA, never called the board to a meeting. He snubbed meetings scheduled by the board in a bid to smooth out operations and directions. He also installed an officer-in-charge to replace administrator Romulo dela Rosa.
Hence, the board was all too happy to learn of Piñol’s relief as DA chief and welcomed his successor, William Dar, who struck them as a professional.
Quimpan said that with the assumption of Atty. Gonzalo Duque as PCA administrator, the PCA regrouped and dela Rosa slid down as a member of the board.
Quimpan singled out as a casualty under Piñol the failure to come up with an industry roadmap that would have synergized the coconut industry to realize its role in nation-building.
Dela Rosa said the roadmaps will serve as the basis for accessing coconut levy funds by coconut-producing communities.
He said the roadmaps can begin from the municipal to the provincial levels, containing the specific programs and project that will be implemented by the communities using funds from the coconut levy.
Dela Rosa has placed at P105 to P110 billion the total amount of levy funds that have accumulated over the past 40 years.
He said the participation of coconut farmers is the key to ensuring that projects and programs will eventually lead to addressing poverty and to triggering growth and raising income.
Quimpan said as stop-gap measures, the PCA will strive to raise the prices of copra to P23 a kilo and to encourage the sale of fresh coconuts to China for starters.
He attributed the drop in copra prices to a glut in coconut oil in the international market after neighboring countries ditched their palm oil and plunged headlong into coconut oil production.
At the same time, the PCA board member called on coconut growers to bear with the PCA as it regroups with a new resolve to fulfill its mandate of developing the industry in line with new vision of a united, globally competitive and efficient coconut industry.
“Our apologies for being unheard of for some time,” he said. “But we are now back to normal and we intend to stay that way for the long haul.”
Put that way, one can only agree.
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