Former Deputy Speaker and Senatorial Candidate Lorenzo “Erin”Tañada called Mayor Sara Duterte’s attention when she spoke before a group of coconut farmers in Leyte. Concerned with the plunging copra prices, the Mayor sought the help of the Department of Agriculture to help alleviate their plight.

Copra prices recorded its lowest farm-gate price in Western Visayas at P13.90 a kilo. Average prices a year ago was at P31.65 a kilo.

“May I remind the good Mayor that had the President not vetoed the Coco Levy Bill, the coconut farmers would somehow have a better fighting chance to keep themselves afloat amidst the greater poverty that this sector has already suffered. The approved bicam version of both Houses provides for some social protection for coconut farmers and their families. There are actually seed funds to start off coconut enterprises, access to capital and technologies to produce higher value added products and not rely on the now dirt cheap copra. I admit that there are some provisions that are not acceptable to Kilus Magniniyog in the bicam version, but my reading is that they are willing to live with it for the meantime and just have an amendatory bill later rather than further prolong the coco farmers’ agony,” Tañada said.

He added, “(i)t is quite ironic that the coconut farmers who rightfully own the levy fund would have to languish and suffer with the drop in copra prices. Bakit kailangan pa nilang manikluhod sa Department of Agriculture para sa tulong samantalang meron naman silang sariling pondong sana ay kanila nang nagagamit upang paunlarin ang industriya ng niyog?”

It may be recalled that Tañada, together with his father, former Senator Bobby Tañada and his brother Atty. Toby Tañada joined the coconut farmers long march from Davao to Malacanang in its Quezon Province leg in November 2014 to clinch an Executive Order from then President Noynoy so that the fund may be utilized.