Aquino signs Coconut Preservation Act

Manila, Philippines -- The government is moving to curb the indiscriminate cutting of coconut trees in the country.

President Aquino III has signed a new law regulating the cutting of coconut trees as well as imposing stiffer penalties against violators.

Republic Act No. 10593 amends RA 8048 or the Coconut Preservation Act of 1995 in a bid to preserve the country's coconut trees. The law, signed last May 29, will take effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or two newspapers.

Under the new law, a coconut tree cannot be cut unless the tree is 60 years old in the case of tall varieties and at least 40 years old for dwarf varieties; no longer economically productive; severely disease-infested and beyond rehabilitation; severely damaged by typhoon or lightning; the land devoted to coconut production is converted to residential or industrial area; the land converted into other agricultural uses; and cause hazard to life and property.

No coconut tree is cut unless the necessary permit is obtained by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

An applicant must pay a fee of P100 for every tree intended to be cut to the PCA. The fee will be divided among the PCA (P40), municipal government (P40), and barangay unit (P20).

The fees allocated to the PCA shall be used for its replanting program while those collected by the municipal/city government shall be used for the repair and rehabilitation of their roads.

''No permit to cut shall be granted unless the applicant has secured from the barangay captain of the locality where the cutting will be done, a certification under oath that he/she has already planted the equivalent number of coconut trees applied for to be cut,'' the law read.

''Such replanting, however, shall not apply to areas converted into industrial, commercial or residential sites or land transformed in accordance with law, into other agricultural purposes,'' it added.

The PCA will then verify the replanting of coconut trees done by the applicant. ''For this purpose, it shall be incumbent upon the PCA to conduct, from time to time, on-the-spot inspections of the sites where the coconut trees have been planted,'' the law read.

RA 10593 also granted police powers to the PCA to investigate suspected violations of the law, arrest violators as well as search and seize a vehicle with illegally cut coconut trees. PCA can also stop the transport of coconut lumber without authority or legal documents as well as confiscate the illegally cut trees in favor of the government.

Anyone caught violating RA 10593 will be punished by imprisonment from two years to six years, or a fine from P100,000 to P500,000, or both at the discretion of the court.

''If the offender is a corporation or a juridical entity, the official who ordered, or allowed the commission of the offense shall be punished with the same penalty,'' the law read. If a government official violates the law, he will also be dismissed from office.

Once the PCA discovers no replanting was done, the barangay captain who issued the certification may be jailed for three years to seven years or asked to pay a fine ranging from P100,000 to as much as P1 million.

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