RECOGNIZING the need to boost Central Visayas’ food source amid an ongoing rice crisis and other challenges, the Regional Development Council (RDC) 7 approved on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, the inclusion of the Tamlang Valley Sustainable Agriculture for Growth and Resiliency project in Negros Oriental into the Regional Development Investment Program (RDIP) 2023-2028.
Government officials said the 25,000-hectare Tamlang Valley is poised to become the food basket of the region, catering to the food demand of Bohol, Cebu, Siquijor, and Negros Oriental. The provinces are known for their tourism destinations, while Cebu is the region’s leading hub in industrial and information and communications technology.
The valley can mass produce high-value crops like rice (2,500 hectares), coconut (500 hectares), sugar and fuel ethanol (2,000 hectares), bananas (500 hectares), coffee and cacao (200 hectares), abaca, bamboo and banana grass (300 hectares), cassava and corn (200 hectares), livestock, and upland fisheries or tilapia farming (100 hectares).
Tamlang Valley is a hinterland area in Negros Oriental, straddling the municipalities of Siaton, Sibulan, Santa Catalina, and Valencia.
Negros Oriental endorsed the project through Provincial Development Council Resolution No. 76, series of 2023.
Total funding for the project is set at P1.463 billion.
The RDC 7 observes a P150 million threshold for projects to be included in the RDIP.
The Tamlang Valley project is proposed to be funded by the Department of Agriculture (DA) 7, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) 7, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) 7, Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) 7, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources 7, and the DA-Philippine Rural Development Program, with a counterpart funding from the Negros Oriental Provincial Government.
Full council endorsement
Melanie Ng, chairperson of the RDC Economic Development Committee (EDC), told the RDC 7 that the project met the Regional Development Plan (RDP) criteria for full council endorsement.
The EDC passed a resolution recommending RDC full council approval for the inclusion of the Tamlang Valley Sustainable Agriculture for Growth and Resiliency Project in the RDIP 2023-2028 during a special meeting on Sept. 13.
Ng said the EDC found the project supportive of the Central Visayas Regional Development Plan 2023-2028 strategies of ensuring food security, modernizing agriculture and promoting agri-business, and increasing the income-earning ability of individuals and families.
She added that the project is also set to contribute to the RDP outcome of “sufficient and stable supply of food commodities attained” through increased agriculture, aquaculture, and livestock production.
The project also met the funding requirement after the Negros Provincial Government submitted the revised and consistent figures on Sept. 13.
Various government agencies also signified support for the project with representatives from the DA 7, PCA 7, NIA 7, and PhilFIDA 7, providing inputs in the conceptualization through a two-day workshop on Aug. 29 to 30.
Ng also added that the project met the environmental and social acceptability criteria.
Ng said Environmental Compliance Certificates and other essential environmental requirements will be prepared for the construction of farm-to-market roads and irrigation dams, while also considering the adoption of organic farming materials and technology to maintain soil fertility.
The EDC, however, recommended that the environmental management plan prioritize soil and water conservation methods to safeguard the water source from contamination.
Early in the meeting on Sept. 15, Negros Oriental Gov. Manuel Sagarbarria already sought the full support of the council to endorse the Tamlang Valley project noting the timeliness of the project amid the soaring prices of rice.
Edward Du, president of the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry, briefed the members of the RDC 7 that the project’s needed endorsement was revived due to the rice crisis.
Du said the Philippines will be one of the most hit countries as it depends on Vietnam for its rice imports.
Currently, many countries that were previously supplied by India are now turning to Thailand and Vietnam for their rice needs. India recently ceased exporting non-basmati white rice, leading to a global disruption in rice supply and prices.
“The Philippines will be hit the most of this rice crisis because of El Niño and the climate change,” he said, during the RDC Meeting held in Dumaguete City.
Du said the Tamlang Valley project is expected to solve this problem and at the same time, help ensure food security not only for Negros but also for the entire Central Visayas.
He said the proposed agro-industrial zone, already has prospective investors and partner agencies that will develop the area.
Tamlang Valley’s potential was seen as early as 2007, with a feasibility study conducted by the Neda 7 and the first project conducted in 2008.
However, due to insurgency, the project was put on hold until 2017 when concerns about food security emerged.
In 2021, a partnership between the Philippine and Hungarian governments was inked to develop the Tamlang Valley Zone of Peace, Integrity, and Development Project, which will be rolled out in different phases from 2021 to 2024.
It will involve two major components – agricultural development, and social service and enterprise development.
The Hungarian Government has committed $100 million for the project.
Besides the approved inclusion of the Tamlang Valley project to the RDIP, the EDC also recommended the endorsement of the project as an agro-industrial estate to the DA for the conduct of a feasibility study and for the RDC to encourage regional line agencies in partnership with the private sector and civil society organizations to consider implementing programs, activities and projects in Tamlang Valley as convergence initiatives. Both of these recommendations were approved by the council.
The recently formed Tamlang Valley Management Council was also recognized and took oath on Friday.