IN ORDER to fill in and meet the demands of about 5.2 million jobs in Mindanao from 2016-2020, a Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) official is calling for a devoted support for the agriculture sector given that majority of the workers in Mindanao are linked to the agriculture value chain.
According to Minda Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro, the World Bank came out with a study in 2016 called the Mindanao Jobs Report, which projected that from 2016-2020Mindanao will be generating about 5.2 million jobs that would need to be filled in. Montenegro said this study was supported by Minda and has since been used for guidance of concerned government agencies in terms of employment.
He also added that in Mindanao, six out of 10 employees are working under jobs that are part of the agriculture value chain which, he said, should all the more make agriculture the center of devoted support.
“If we don’t do anything with the rural areas to develop agriculture, jobs are going to be created here in the cities but [these are going to be] informal jobs, not sustainable, and lacking in the needed social protection and opportunity for growth or career progression,” said Montenegro.
Montenegro emphasized that as projects and programs push for the development of the urban areas in Mindanao, there should also be support for the rural areas otherwise the city will grow while the rural areas stagnate.
As the cities progress, he said nothing happens to the rural areas because there are no agriculture engineers and agriculturists to tend for the land. In the same way, there is no focus provided in terms of making the commodities competitive with the rest of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
“If that’s the scenario that we see in Mindanao, then we will continue to be flooded by commodities coming from our neighbors because of the zero tariff,” he said.
“What happens is those that do not have jobs in the rural areas will migrate in the cities. They will find any jobs they can find in the city because they do not find opportunities in their places. That will continue to be an indication of a rising poverty situation even in the progressive areas,” Montenegro added.
To address this dilemma, Montenegro said they are currently working on tracking job generation path by looking at what jobs are being and should be created in a particular place. If a specific place is into aquaculture, he said the focus of the academic sector in the area should provide scholarships relating to agriculture or other agri fisheries related studies.
In the same way, if the place is also focused on another agriculture sector, the focus of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) and other training institutions should be related to this area as well.
“[This is] customizing the kind of offers where we find the viability of that particular sector. This may not necessarily be done overnight but that is the approach we are pushing right now in terms of having the confluence of many other agencies marching behind that particular trajectory of growth particularly in terms of job creation,” said Montenegro.
He emphasized that as there are “pockets of development” in the urban centers, there are still “areas of deprivation” in Mindanao.
He cited as an example areas in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) particularly Basilan and Jolo which only has about 30 percent of their areas having access to electricity as they are not connected to the grid.
Montenegro said up until the present these areas only have electricity for 12 hours.
As for this, he said Minda is also working out interregional connections through infrastructure developments in Mindanao.
About 40 percent of the country’s food trade is from Mindanao. Out of the top 10 exportable commodities of the Philippines, eight are from Mindanao and about a third of the total farm land in the country is also located in Mindanao.