Mindanao farmers ready for ASEAN Integration

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, October 31 (PIA) – “When you look at ASEAN and beyond, the Philippines is already well-positioned but we have to unite around the AEC game plan… the government has a role, but private sector is the key,” said Atty. Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr., Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) undersecretary in his keynote speech during the Mindanao Food Congress held in Cagayan de Oro City recently.

In consonance with its theme: “Aligning Mindanao Food Security in the ASEAN Market,” the convergence of key players and stakeholders in the agriculture and other related industries in Mindanao aims to identify areas in food production that needs enhancement through public-private partnership. This is seen to boost the competitiveness of the agriculture sector and make the country be at par with its neighbors in the ASEAN region on the onset of the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Integration.

The event also serves as a venue for food producers and other stakeholders to explore for more available financial windows and to share their best practices in their respective fields and in turn, learn from each other and replicate them.

Cristobal emphasized that the country needed to enhance competitiveness, improve compliance, promote collaboration and intensify communication in order to have more access in the ASEAN market. He revealed that the government has been conducting information campaign and has implemented projects in order to prepare the industries for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

Meanwhile, Dr. Rolando T. Dy, executive director of Center for Food and Agribusiness of the University of Asia and the Pacific also revealed that among the potential export champion commodities, the country is already competitive on pineapple and cavendish banana as to productivity, cost, quality, supply reliability and branding. He stressed that in order to maximize the country’s export potentials with commodities such as cacao, coffee, cardava banana, corn, coconut, palm oil and rubber, all stakeholders must collaborate in order to fill the competitiveness gaps. He reiterated that it should be addressed through private sector-driven initiatives, but in accordance with the road maps crafted by the government.

Accordingly, the Department of Agriculture (DA) presented its six-year (2014-2020) development program. Director Shandy M. Hubilla of the Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) Luzon B Project Support Office revealed that the PRDP will center on the value-chain focusing on the priority commodities and climate change resiliency and adaptation in the implementation of its sub-projects.

The PRDP which has a P27-billion budget aims to provide key infrastructure, facilities, technology and information to increase income, productivity and competitiveness among small holder farmer and fisherfolk groups in the countryside through a partnership with the local government units and the private sector.

Within its six-year implementation, the PRDP has allocated P2-billion for infrastructure development for the Mindanao cluster. This will include farm-to-market roads and facilities. The said budget is the biggest compared to the other clusters in the country. Moreover, for 2014 PRDP has allocated around P251-million for agri-enterprise development for Mindanao. This will be for the commodities such as rubber, cassava, coconut and abaca.

The Mindanao Food Congress is a collaborative effort of Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc., the local government unit of Cagayan de Oro, the Mindanao Development Authority together with the regional offices of the DA, DTI, National Economic Development Authority and the Mindanao Business Council. (Vanessa Mae S. Siano, DA-ACU 10/PIA)