By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
MANILA, Philippines — Fifteen out of every 100 coconut trees in the country are ‚Äúpast retirement age‚ÄĚ and if not replaced will imperil the country‚Äôs source of the popular and in-demand coco water, according to lawmakers.
Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara and Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez said the government should invest in the planting of more trees to replenish the ageing ones, and ensure long-term supply.
‚ÄúThe worry right now is we‚Äôre cutting more than we‚Äôre planting…You have to plant new trees if we are to tap this coco water,‚ÄĚ Suarez¬†said.
Quoting the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Angara said that 44 million of the country‚Äôs coconut trees are past their productive age.
He said ageing coconut trees also threaten the biodiesel program, which under the law must supply five percent of the diesel needs.
‚ÄúCoconut trees are our oil rigs. If they go dry then our biofuel program sputters too,‚ÄĚ Angara added.
Angara, who, like Suarez, hails from a coconut-producing province, proposed increased funding for the PCA to intensify coconut replanting program and expand the national inventory of 342 million bearing trees.
‚ÄúIf the world gets addicted to coconut juice, then the supply will certainly not be ¬†enough, as coconut is also used for other food and¬†fuel,‚ÄĚ he said.
He said the P682 million budget of the PCA was not enough for a serious replanting program. Of this amount , some P220 million will be spent to plant ¬†4.4 million trees.
But he said the number covers only 10 percent of the trees that need to be replaced.
The P50 per tree planting expense is cheap considering that one tree will later produce an average 50 nuts a year, Angara added.
Following his trip to the United States, President Benigno Aquino III announced that two companies, Pepsi Co. and Vita Coco, committed fresh investments in the country‚Äôs coconut industry to meet the international demand for coco water.
Vita Coco officials had assured that they intend to invest $15 million in the next four years, the President said.