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Press Release - Cayetano slams PCA over slow disbursement of medical assistance to coconut farmers

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday slammed the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for submitting its plan for the disbursement of medical assistance to coconut farmers one year into the administration, resulting in a delay in the delivery of services.

During the plenary debate on the proposed budget of PCA for 2024, Cayetano expressed disappointment that only two percent of the P500 million allocated for medical assistance to coconut farmers in the current financial year was utilized.

The current financial year will conclude in December, leaving the PCA with only a month to deliver the remaining P490 million for the beneficiaries.

Cayetano said six out of 10 sick Filipinos die without seeing a doctor, and among them are coconut farmers who are considered among the "poorest of the poor" in the country.

"Kung sa poorest of the poor hindi natin maayos [ang serbisyo], and kung priority na 'to (agriculture) pero ganiyan [pa rin] ang attitude, [paano pa sa iba?] I feel as disgusted as my colleagues here na [tinatanong], bakit ganoon?" he said.

"Kung ang talent niyo ay mag-ipon ng pondo, dapat lumipat kayo sa Landbank of the Philippines," he added.

PCA Administrator Ferrer Cruz said the delay in the utilization of the budget for medical assistance was due to issues with PhilHealth. He said the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) set up by the previous administration did not match the law, which says the money should go directly to the beneficiaries, not through PhilHealth.

When Cayetano asked him if he promptly submitted an alternative plan to the current administration upon noticing the issue, Cruz explained that he initially only requested a review and did not propose an actual plan until the first week of November this year.

"Sir, you're the head. You're sworn to execute the law. Ikaw ang magbibigay ng plano," the independent senator said.

"Hindi ka nababagalan na one-and-a-half year na ang Presidente saka ka pa lang gagawa ng plano?" he added.

Cayetano urged the PCA to "step up" in addressing the concerns and needs of the agricultural sector rather than putting all the burden on the President.

He requested the agency to submit a timeline to the Department