President Aquino has signed a new law that prohibit unauthorized cutting of coconut trees, imposing up to six years in jail and maximum fine of P500,000, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Sunday.
She said Republic Act 10593, which amended the 18-year old Coconut Preservation Act of 1995, specifies only seven instances that allowed cutting of coconut trees.

“If the offender is in government service, he shall be dismissed from office in addition to the jail term and the fine,” Valte said.

The Philippines is the world’s largest producer of coconut. In 2012, the Philippines exported more than 1.5-million metric tons—a 1.49 percent increase from the volume in 2011—of copra, coconut oil, copra meal, desiccated coconut, coco shell charcoal, activated carbon and coco chemicals.

About 3.5 million hectares, which accounts for 25 percent of agricultural land in the country, were dedicated to coconut production. But many farmers cut down coconut trees when lumber became scarce after the government imposed a total log ban in the country.

Valte said a barangay captain who issued a certification to cut down a coconut tree without ordering a replanting will face maximum imprisonment of seven years and fine of up to P1 million.

“The barangay captain concerned shall be perpetually disqualified from holding any other public office,” Valte said.

The new law provides the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) police powers to search and seize a vehicle carrying illegally cut coconut lumber and to stop the transport or shipment of coconut lumber without legal documents, Valte said.

She said the new law also allows the PCA to confiscate in favor of the government the illegally cot coconut lumber as well as the machinery and equipment used in the commission of the offense.

The seven exemptions that allow cutting of coconut trees are: when the tree is 60 years old for the tall varieties and 40 years old for dwarf varieties; the tree is no longer productive; the tree is disease-infested and beyond rehabilitation; the tree is severely damaged by typhoon or lightning; the agricultural land has been converted into residential or commercial area, the land is converted into other agricultural use, the tree pose hazard to life and property.

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