MORE than 600,000 jobs are now in peril as the two major industries that drive the economy of Mindanao face challenges.

This was the pronouncement made by Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco) chair Virgilio Leyretana during the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City Davao's Chicco de Cafe Monday, citing the criticisms faced by the banana industry and the threats on the fisheries sector, particularly on tuna.

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"The fisheries sector employs a ball park figure of 150,000 employees while the banana industry has about half a million people," Leyretana said. "The tuna and banana industries are at the forefront of issues now."

Both industries, according to Leyretana, are the ones that drive the economy of Mindanao. Also, the banana and tuna sectors helped buffer the local economy of Mindanao from the adverse effects of the global financial crisis.

"If something happens to the two industries, it will affect the peace and order situation," Leyretana said, adding that the displaced workers can easily be recruited into the insurgency movement.

The banana industry also said that should a ban on aerial spraying take effect, it will cause the collapse of the industry, displacing half a million directly employed workers.

Leyretana said the effects on the two industries will also affect other industries like plastics, cartons, ice manufacturing, trucking, and shipping.

"Even the revenues of the local government units will also be affected," Leyretana said.

At present, the Medco has submitted its position paper showing support for the banana industry, while it is undergoing talks with the players of the tuna industry to prevent any loss of jobs.

"We have tried talking to the Indonesian officials to open up their seas to our fishing vessels but they won't budge," Leyretana said, adding that a bilateral agreement which ended in 2007 has not been renewed between the two countries. (CPM)