Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala recognized and acknowledged the contribution of the KM71 marchers in the establishment of a coconut farmers’ trust fund from the P71 billion (B) coco levy fund.

“Let us acknowledge all those who represent and joined the 71 heroic coconut farmers who walked 71 days to rouse the concerned government officials, and act on their longtime plea,” Alcala announced during the 3rd National Coconut Farmers’ Conference held in Quezon City on February 25, 2015. The event coincided with the 28th anniversary of EDSA People Power revolution.

The 71-day march is symbolic of the coconut farmers’ push for the accessibility of the P71-billion coconut levy fund, formed during the Marcos regime from taxes collected from coconut farmers, and the establishment of a trust fund which can protect the money from misuse.

The KM71 marchers consist of 71 coconut farmers who embarked on a 71-day cross-country journey covering 1,750 km by foot, leaving their homes in Davao on September 21, 2014 until they reach Malacañang on November 26 where they had a meeting with President Benigno S. Aquino and some department secretaries of the executive branch among other government officials.

During the dialogue, Aquino agreed to push the creation of a trust fund that will protect the P71 billion. He also agreed to issue an Executive Order (E.O.) that will provide P3B for coconut farmers every year while awaiting for the bill’s approval.

“When Ka Bobby Tanada, Ka Oca Santos, and I dialogued with the President, we did not expect that the issuance with the finality will come this soon. Perhaps the Supreme Court justices were moved by the KM71 marchers’ plea,” Alcala said.

The reason for the marchers’ sacrifice is to hasten the  uplifting of the lives of their fellow poor coconut farmers in the country. “Hindi lamang parangal kundi kaukulang aksyon ang kailangan,” he added.

Planting materials, farm animals, and farm equipment, as well as scholarship grants (through ACEF) with allowance were provided by DA to the coconut farmers who attended the conference.

Sec. Alcala extended assistance to coconut farmers’ groups, receiving 150 sacks assorted yellow and white corn, 10 sacks assorted vegetable seeds, upland palay seedlings, 1,000 coffee and cacao seedlings, and two carabaos with plows. He urged coconut farmers to practice intercropping because it is the fastest way of increasing their income.

Asec. Edilberto de Luna handed the agricultural assistance to leaders of coconut federations belonging to: KAMMPIL, PAKISAMA, BASULTA, AMMA, LAKAMBINI, NIUGAN, KATARUNGAN, PKMP, and PKMM. # # # (Marlo Asis, DA-AFID)