By: SARWELL Q. MENIANO
PALO, Leyte – Eastern Visayas, country’s second top coconut producing area, suffered a P16.60 billion loss after super typhoon Yolanda flattened coconut farms in five provinces.Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Regional Manager Edilberto Nierva said 33.82 million trees have been damaged, accounting 46% of the region’s 72.75 million thriving coconut trees.“Nearly half of damaged trees will have no chance of recovery because these were either snapped or toppled by strong wind and storm surge,” said Nierva, who temporarily holds office in a canteen after their office was destroyed by the supertyphoon.Of the 33.82 million affected trees, 15.04 million were categorized as totally damaged, 9.06 million severely damaged, 4.98 million slightly damaged, and 4.84 million moderately damaged.“It will take one year for slightly and moderately damaged trees to regenerate. Severely damaged trees will not bear fruit for two to three years,” Nierva added.Reynaldo Redoña, a 43-year-old coconut farmer in Barangay Pago, Tanauan, Leyte said that of his 300 bearing trees, about 285 trees were toppled or sheared by the storm. “Only 15 trees were left standing, but it will take years before these remaining trees will produce nuts,” said Redoña, gesturing towards his typhoon-ravaged farm that provides up to P6,000 quarterly income. The farmer, whose family survived from the storm by hiding under a lavatory, is unsure if his 15-year-old son could finish college since it will take about five years before they will regain their income after replanting. Cornelio Castila, a 73-year old coconut farmer in Barangay Calao, Burauen, also in Leyte, hopes the government will immediately implement replanting activities or else people will go hungry in the next few years. “Of the 400 planted trees, only less than a hundred were spared by strong wind, but some of these remaining trees were badly damaged,” said Castila, who earns P2,000 monthly from cultivating four hectares of coconut farm. Castila’s plight is shared by 1,160,332 coconut farmers in the region cultivating 295,191 hectares of land slammed by supertyphoon on November 8. Nierva said their agency will distribute 15.04 million trees for massive replanting activities in the next five years, with a funding requirement of P16.5 million. Leyte, a major coconut growing province, suffered a P12.16 billion loss. Other coconut producing provinces also posted income loss due to storm’s wrath. These are Eastern Samar (P3.29 billion), Samar (P588.97 million), Biliran (P465.77 million) and Southern Leyte (P91.92 million). Benjamin Yu, PCA regional regulation officer projected a 338,242 metric tons loss in copra output due to storm destruction. “Coconut oil production is expected to slowdown by half since two major oil mills in Leyte were slammed by storm. Considering the extent of damages in these plants, it will take years for these plants to recover and resume normal operation,” Yu added.