KMP: PCA deprived coconut farmers of P29.5 million cash assistance

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) slams the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for failing to pay a total of P29.541 million in cash incentives to coconut farmers and farmworkers in 2020.“We urge PCA governing board chairperson and Agriculture Secretary William Dar to ensure the most urgent distribution of these much needed and much deserved cash incentives to coconut farmers,” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos says. The PCA is a government-owned and controlled corporation.  

Coconut farmers were doubly devastated by the pandemic and successive typhoons last year, yet the PCA was remiss in granting them much-needed aid and financial assistance, according to the peasant leader. In Quezon province, prices of copra are now at P30 per kilo, coconut at a meager P5 per piece, and palay prices are at a low P8 per kilo, according to the Pinagkaisang Lakas ng mga Magbubukid sa Quezon.“Wala po kaming natatanggap na ayuda, laluna ang maraming mga magniniyog sa Quezon,” according to coconut farmer Tony Pajalla. For their part, coconut farmers from Albay said they have sought urgent aid from the LGU to no avail. “Maraming hindi nakatanggap ng ayuda. Ilang beses kaming humingi ng tulong sa probinsya, ang hinarap sa amin ay kapulisan. Ang pangontra nila ay may mga health protocol daw. Bawal daw pumunta at humingi ng ayuda dahil labag ito sa protocols,” according to Lani Ramirez of Organisasyon ng mga Magsasaka sa Albay, a provincial chapter of KMP. 

The 2020 Commission on Audit Report on PCA revealed that “Cash incentives under the Incentivized Coconut Planting and Replanting-Participatory Coconut Planting projects (ICPR) of the Expanded PCA Response to COVID-19 Program for CY 2020 amounting to P16.054 million, P4.546 million, and P3.646 million in Region IX, Misamis Occidental, and Lanao del Norte, respectively, were not yet paid to farmer-participants” due to the new database system, late arrival of checks, and documentary deficiencies. 

The program was launched last April 2020 to assist coconut farmers in COVID-affected regions. The non-payment, however, “[deprived/delayed] the much-needed benefits that the coconut farmers could have derived from the program,” as COA observed.

The report also revealed that the Crop Diversification and Animal Integration program components of the EPRCP in 4 regions (I to III and CAR), with a total proposed budget of P4.680 million, was not “urgently implemented,” following the non-payment of cash incentives and non-distribution of goats and veterinary medicines. The COA here too observed that this “[d]eprived the intended beneficiaries of timely assistance and benefits due them during the threat of COVID-19 crisis”

There were also P615,000 unpaid incentives in Misamis Occidental under the National Coconut Intercropping Project.

Ramos said that they cannot agree more with COA’s observations. “These non-payments and non-distributions add to the distrust small coconut farmers have with the PCA. This far-off agency filled with bureaucrats ” he added.

The peasant leader also underscored that “as billions of public funds in different agencies are put into question, P29.5 million in deprived ayuda is by no means a trivial amount.” Ramos points out that this amount is six times larger than the P4.31 million in “committed investments” to the coconut industry which the PCA recently celebrated. “Every peso of the people’s money matters,” he declares.

The COA report also noted the wastage of a total of P702,773 due to the distribution of banana suckers to “uninterested” beneficiaries in Cagayan, and due to the untimely delivery of grafted fruit trees in Oriental Mindoro and Marinduque. 

Support to COA’s efforts in flagging delinquent agencies

Farmers also expressed their full support to the Commission on Audit for the agency’s determination to call out and flag erring agencies. Despite the flak, the agency is getting from President Duterte, COA has the authority and mandate to see to it that every centavo of the national budget is spent well and for the benefit of the people. #

View the COA report on PCA here

Read KMP’s statement on COA report on DA here – P34.5 billion worth funds with incomplete accounting records, P9.8 billion unutilized funds for 2020.  

Read KMP’s statement on COA report on DAR here – P411 million questionable DAR budget for NTF-ELCAC 

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