LUCENA City -- Aimed at curbing corruption in the coconut industry and to assure that there will be a larger number of trees being planted than cut, the newly-appointed administrator of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is planning to impose a moratorium on the issuance of permits to cut coconut trees and the corresponding transport clearances, nationwide.
PCA Administrator Billy Andal, who recently assumed office, said the ban, when imposed, will take effect in a shorter period of time compared to what happened in March 2008, once they finally addressed the problem in the issuance of permits.
In a press conference during his visit at the PCA regional office, Andal said the agency’s decision whether to implement a moratorium or not will be announced on Tuesday next week as it is still being studied by the PCA board but hinted that there is a bigger probability that the ban will be imposed.
“There is indeed irregularity in the execution of permits issued and released by the PCA and it clearly appears that there have been conspiracy between coco lumber traders and some corrupt PCA personnel in the field,” said Andal, a former provincial board member, fiscalizer and activist during the Marcos administration.
When asked about PCA checkpoints, Andal branded them as “cash points”, referring to bribe money that corrupt PCA personnel manning the supposed checkpoints receive from the coco lumber traders.
“No traders passing the checkpoints give or hand checks to these corrupt personnel. What they give is purely cash,” he said.
Andal said only 10 million coconut trees are being planted yearly which is very far from what is needed to be planted. He said even 20 million trees every year are still not enough.
But he agrees with observations that old coconut trees that are no longer productive should be cut.
“Of course, we have to get rid our fields of debris that pose danger to our farmers,” he said.
Meanwhile, Andal branded as usurpation of authority the executive order issued by Quezon Gov. David Suarez ordering the mayors and barangay captains to temporarily suspend the issuance of barangay clearance for the cutting of coconut trees.
Executive Order 29, dated Sept. 8 and signed by Suarez, also orders that all barangay clearance secured for the cutting of coconut trees in Quezon are “hereby temporarily suspended pending the assessment of the remaining percentage of coconut trees still uncut.”
Andal said the governor’s intent may be good but his action was inappropriate.
“He (Suarez) has no deputation from PCA, making him vulnerable to usurpation of authority charges,” he said.