QUEZON CITY-- The members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform pushed for the continuing registration of coconut farmers in a public hearing last June 10, 2021.
The hearing was conducted following the Senate Resolution 736 filed by Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Senator Risa Hontiveros proposing an inquiry on the status of the Coconut Farmers’ Registry as mandated by the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act or Republic Act 11524.
The said law took effect on March 13, 2021 which mandated the Philippine Coconut Authority to accomplish the coconut farmers registry in 90 days or by June 11, 2021. Based on the law, only those farmers listed in the PCA–led registry, called the National Coconut Farmers Registry System (NCFRS), will be the beneficiaries of the development programs that will be funded and implemented in line with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan.
In his report to the Senate Committee, PCA Administrator Benjamin R. Madrigal, Jr. said that at least 51% of the 2.5 million farmers in the existing registry were already updated. Moreover, there are 315,104 new farmer-registrants or those farmers who, for a long time, have not been in touch with the PCA and are now taking this opportunity to avail of government support.
Madrigal also reported that despite the current accomplishments, there were farmers who were worried that with this new system, the existing validated list of 2.5 million registered farmers as of 2018 will be disregarded. However, he clarified that the existing validated list as of 2018 is not being disregarded. “The validated list forms the core of the NCFRS. The updated information is important for us to have better data analytics as bases for planning and informed decision making. Likewise, cleansing this list is also important since a few years have already passed since this was last updated,” said Madrigal.
Because the registration is just 51% complete, Senator Hontiveros initially proposed to extend the deadline until September 9, 2021 or another 90 days to cover those who have not yet updated or registered. This was welcomed by Senator Imee Marcos who further said that even during the deliberation of the proposed bill, she did not believe that the registration can be accomplished within the 90-day prescribed period.
Senator Cynthia Villar, the Committee Chairperson, averred that the farmers’ registration is a continuing process. She commented that with the files of more than 50% in the existing registry already updated plus the more than 300 thousand new registrants, the government can now proceed with the program implementation. She added that registration can continue and that those who failed to register until June 11 can still avail of the programs later on.
On the other hand, Senator Pangilinan was happy to note that in just a matter of three months, more than a million farmers have updated their files and another 300 thousand new registrants heeded the call for registration. He recalled that the existing registry took three years to complete, meaning around 800 thousand were only registered each year.
Senators also pointed out that many farmers are not aware of the registration process and find it difficult to accomplish the NCFRS forms due to being written in English. Representatives from the coconut farmers organizations and cooperatives recognized the PCA’s lack of sufficient manpower to efficiently register all eligible coconut farmers, especially those in the far-flung areas. Senator Villar urged PCA to tap the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP), the League of Municipal Mayors of the Philippines (LMMP), and the League of Barangays in the Philippines (LBP), as well as all municipal agriculture offices, to assist in the registration. Gov. Presbitero “Presby” Velasco, Jr., national president of LPP, took the initiative in informing his colleagues in the LPP to extend their help to PCA.
Madrigal cited that the on-going registration and validation proved to be a formidable task taking into consideration the current COVID Pandemic. The imposition of lockdowns and the prohibition of mass gatherings in several areas limited the movement not only of PCA personnel, but the aging farmers as well, especially those in remote areas. Nonetheless, he pledged to exert all efforts to ensure that all eligible coconut farm-owners, tenants, and workers will be registered in the NCFRS. Also, he committed to provide registration forms in local translations for better farmers’ comprehension. The barangay local government units will be asked to help by willingly certifying their farmers as part of the registration requirements. The names of farmers registered to the NCFRS will also be posted in conspicuous places in the barangays and municipalities as part of the efforts of keeping the process open and transparent.###