More than a sugar haven

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Monday, May 12, 2014


WHEN it rains, it pours. Pagasa warns that climate models predict that this condition may persist for the next nine months, with the onset of El Niño in June that might peak during the last quarter of 2014 and could last up to the first quarter of 2015.

But let’s talk of the figurative rain of good news on building the Negrense green economy. Of course, there’s the growing market for organic products both in the province and beyond its borders. What is needed is to work on the value and chains of various green crops.

How about this? An energy firm has expressed an interest in putting up a biomass plant in Bacolod City. It’s something to smile about. Former governor Rafael Coscolluela said that if that happens, Bacolod City’s sanitary landfill could be history as solid waste can be used to generate power.

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The Bacolod plant could be the 20th in the pipeline of the biomass/power cogeneration projects among 19 sugarcane mills in Negros Occidental and add to the projected capacity of 138.7 megawatts.

Then there’s the potential of developing bamboo plantations and other trees used for wood as alternative livelihood. Goodbye, illegal charcoals in the horizon?

Of course, a monoculture-based economy will have its hands-full wading through uncharted waters. Sugarcane workers and planters have to learn new tricks of the trade outside of the sugar industry.

Darlene May Casiano, head of the Committee on Projects Alliance of Negrense Tourism Stakeholders Inc., said that that the Department of Trade and Industry has identified Negros Island as the bamboo capital.

The City Planning Office of Talisay City has designated Bamboo Furnitures and Craft as its “OTOP” (one town, one product). The LGU, however, acknowledges the gap in the value chain as regards the sustainable supply of raw materials.

On the other hand, Bacolod City has its own highlands and shares an upland boundary with Talisay City, where bamboos thrive and abound.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization noted that bamboo has developed as an exceptionally valuable and often superior substitute for wood. Bamboo-based panels and boards are hard and durable and may successfully substitute for hardwood products. Bamboo may replace wood in many industrial applications and thereby contribute to the saving and restoration of the world’s forests.

To increase the price of bamboos, the bamboo industry will have to increase the value of the products entering the supply chain. And the province will find it a rough going competing with high-end products of other provinces if not from other countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, not to mention slugging it out with the Chinese Goliath.

It has to tie up with DOST’s Forest Products Research and Development Institute. FPRDI can provide modern finishing facilities such as spray booth, handicraft drying facility, among others. In addition, the province has to tie up with architects, artists and artisans.

On top of province’s list of priority investments sectors is the creation of the Northern Negros, Metro North, South-Central and Southern Negros tourism circuits.

The province will need more schools and training programs to address the growing tourism and agribusiness human power requirement. Many Negrenses will have to be more fluent with English and the national language Filipino to communicate with foreign and domestic tourists.

Lito presented not the grim but green prospects of re-inventing the Negrense economy during the recent investment forum held by the Negros Occidental provincial government and the Development Bank of the Philippines. Topping their list is the creation of the four tourism circuits in the province.

Indeed, as Lito noted, there is also a need to “rebrand” the province to show tourists – and the world – that it is more to Negros Occidental than just a sugar haven.

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 12, 2014.

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