THE Philippine Palm Oil Development Council Inc. (PPDCI) is eyeing another 300,000 hectares to expand oil palm plantation in a bid to to make the country self-sufficient to palm oil products.

The council targets to achieve, under its palm oil industry roadmap, the expansion in eight yearsm from 2015 to 2023.

PPDCI, in partnership with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), crafted the roadmap in 2013.

"It is good news that after the successful 9th National Palm Oil Congress last August 19-20 in General Santos City, there are now concrete policy directions by the government. Palm oil will be treated equally with other agri products," Peter Lavina, a member of the council's technical working group, said at the sidelines of Club 888 media forum.

These policy directions, he said, include additional budget allocation of some P50 million this year, several folds of the previous year’s budget at only P1 million. The budget will be utilized as an assistance to farmers, for fertilizers, seedlings and research and development.

At present, the Philippines has a total area of 75,000 has. planted with palm oil, around 69,000 are in Mindanao, the rest are in Palawan and Bohol.

The expansion will need some 38.4 to 42 million oil palm seedlings, with an average of 128 to 140 trees per hectare.

"This will be beneficial for our country because at present we are importing a total of 350,000 to 400,000 metric tons (MT) amounting to P35 billion annually. If we have more supply of palm oil, we will not be needing to import anymore such big amount," he said.

The country is importing palm oil from neighboring Asean countries, like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, among others.

According to Lavina, the challenges such as lack of quality planting materials would hinder the development of the industry.

"I think, government-to-government transactions for the importation of seedling would be better because it is cheaper, quality is assured, faster process, as well as it will eliminate red tape instead of the private sector importing palm oil from other countries," he said.

The industry estimated that around 1 million hectare idle lands are in Mindanao which can be potentially planted with oil palm.