August 09, 2020 at 07:40 pm
Alena Mae S. Flores
The United Coconut Association of the Philippines Inc. expressed alarm over the near extinction of coconut trees in the country.
UCAP said many of the country’s trees were planted more than 100 years ago. It asked government regulators to immediately address and avert the collapse of the industry.
It said export earnings of locally-harvested coconuts contributed more than $2 billion yearly to the economy, making the Philippines one of the world’s top coconut suppliers.
The Philippine coconut sector also provides livelihood to about 3.5 million Filipino farmers.
Victoria Espaldon, former dean of the University of the Philippines-Los Banos School of Environment Science and Management joined UCAP, coconut industry stakeholders and academicians in contradicting reports that single out coconut oil production as both environmental and biodiversity threats.
The articles, published online on Bloomberg Green and two other independent industry news portals, focused on the coconut industry, particularly the process of producing coconut oil, as an environmental threat which it said was worse than palm oil production.
Quoting a report from the U.K.’s University of Exeter, Bloomberg Green stated that production of coconut oil threatens around 20 animal species for every million tons made.
Espaldon said the report is “vague on whether it is the coconut oil production itself or that landscapes are transformed to coconuts as environmental issues.”
“Coconut oil processing plants are now much improved and have been more environmentally conscious as much as palm oil production,” Espaldon said. She said wastes from coconut production like husks were being turned into big enterprises—garden media, cococoir, coco-dusts and others.
Ateneo School of Sciences professor emeritus Toby Dayrit agreed, saying, “no rain forests have been burned in the past 200 years to plant coconuts.”
He said coconuts are “pioneer species in island ecosystems, and coconuts actually promote biodiversity in barren islands and seashores where no other plants grow.”
Dayrit said the coconut industry was also a victim of “history of biases.”
Palm oil corners nearly 45 percent of the global market while coconut oil accounts for just about two percent but stakeholders said the coconut’s usefulness compared to palm goes beyond oil.
Coconut, many times referred to as a low-cost but nutritious poor man’s food, is being used to manufacture virgin coconut oil and MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil health supplements, beauty products, biodiesel and aesthetic decors.