Magsaysay: Stop converting coconut lands into housing, commercial areas

FORMER Senator Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay Jr., today expressed concern over the growing conversion of coconut lands to residential areas and for other commercial activities.

“Coconut lands are being depleted because they are being transformed into subdivisions and other commercial developments, including the cutting of coconut trees for lumber and the declining productivity of senile trees,” Magsaysay said.

Magsaysay said the development of coconut lands into subdivisions and other commercial expansion could hamper the growth of a flourishing coconut industry, which generates US$ 35.4 million in export earning annually.

The country exports to 100 countries an average of 33 million metric tons of coconuts in various forms such as oil, meal, fiber and even handicraft.

Magsaysay, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, is currently the chairman of state-controlled CIIF Oil Mills Group that runs and manages the Legaspi Oil Company Inc., San Pablo Manufacturing Corp., and Southern Luzon Coconut Oil Mills, Inc.

Magsaysay stressed the conversion could result to a shortage of coconuts.

“We can no longer delay acting on these problems. If we are unable to meet volume demands, our international buyers might just source their raw materials from other countries or worst shift to coconut substitutes. When they do it, it would be difficult to woo them back,” Magsaysay said as he stressed the importance of an immediate government action on the problem.

Magsaysay has earlier proposed the creation of a coconut industry roadmap to strengthen government’s economic and social development program for the coconut trade.

He said the proposed roadmap is a development map similar to national government’s 2011-2016 economic development plans.

Magsaysay likewise called for the massive planting of high yielding coconut varieties to complement the replanting activity intended to replace senile trees.

He also echoed the objective of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) of planting and replanting 47 million trees on 400,000 hectares of coconut land to bolster coconut production by 25 percent which at present is peg at 800 kilogram per hectare to at least 1,000 kilogram per hectare.

Magsaysay added the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry have made great inroads in developing the markets for coconut products.

Magsaysay also proposed the strong potential for intercropping such as cacao, lanzones even sorghum and livestock to tide over the coconut and other farmers as the coconut trees frown from three to four years.

The former senator who hails from Zambales stressed “there is no reason why Philippines cannot revitalize the coconut industry and make it more competitive and sustainable.”

“The time is past for debates, posturing and bickering. Now is the time for action, decisive action. What we need is the political will to push our development agenda and the commitment of all stakeholders to cooperate and work together,” Magsaysay added.

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