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Cocolumber is a popular substitute for the regular (wood) lumber in small construction projects hereabout. A good supply of the softwood, seems to be readily available in the local hardware store. Unknown to many, the constant cutting of good and sturdy coconut trees affect the coconut industry in more than many ways. This situation is about to change.
On Sunday, President Aquino signed into law RA# 10593 which specifically prohibits the unauthorized cutting of coconut trees. The law superseded the old coconut Preservation Act of 1995.
While the new law imposes six years jail time and maximum fine of P500,000 for offender, dismissal from employment will befall the guilty party if employed by the government.
The cutting of coconut trees are allowable only in instances when either of these are true: the tree is 60 years old for the tall varieties and 40 years old for dwarf varieties; no longer productive; beyond rehabilitation due to disease infestation; severely damaged by typhoon or lightning. Also permitted are situations when the agricultural land has been converted into residential or commercial area, the land is converted into other agricultural use, and, the tree pose hazard to life and property.
Bicol is one of the top copra producing region, while the Philippines topped the list in 2010 among coco producing countries, seconded only by Indonesia. Some 3.5 million hectares of agricultural lands are planted with coconut trees nationwide. But when cocolumber became the popular replacement of the regular lumber, farmers looked forward to augmenting their income by felling off sturdy coco trees, instead.
The law is geared at curbing the current trend but will remain to be proven if it will be a strong deterrent. It specifically put to task the barangay captain who has jurisdiction where cocolumber production is rampant. A barangay captain who issued a certification to cut down a coconut tree without ordering a replacement plant will face maximum imprisonment of seven years and fine of up to P1 million. The illegal act sanctioned by the barangay official will also make him disqualified from any public office.
The more popular products derived from coconut are processed coco milk (gata), dessicated coconut, copra, copra meal, coco oil, charcoal, activated carbon, the very refreshing buko, and walis tingting (sighid).