Agri boost laid out

THE Mindanao business community laid out policy directions the next administration should focus to further boost the development of the agriculture sector in the island.

Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) Investment Promotions and Public Affairs Office director Romeo Montenegro said that some of the policy directions the next administration should focus in agriculture are tapping of the idle agricultural lands, link between the small and big farmers and access to financing by farmers.

“Mindanao is an agri land. But ironically it became a land with so much poverty in the land of plenty. Generally, one specific policy direction that the next administration has to look at is tapping the idle lands that we have in Mindanao,” he said.

Montenegro bared that based on the study "How Land Governance Influences Job Creation in Mindanao" done by World Bank as part of its Mindanao Jobs Report, Mindanao’s total land area of 10.2 million hectares, about 4.136 million ha or 40.5 percent is alienable and disposable, consisting of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) areas and some idle lands.

“If we push for massive agri investments in Mindanao, we need to start looking at the availability of these lands for consolidation to achieve economies of scale,” Montenegro said, adding that viable investments for Mindanao are those that would translate to creation of jobs.

Montenegro also said that the link between small and large farms has to be established and accessibility to financing must be made easy and possible for farmer to grow their business.

For the transport sector, Montenegro also made mention that mobility of products from one location to other has to be strengthened, particularly bringing products from production area to the market and export gateway.

He also said that the incoming president may benchmark on the irrelatively high support that the Aquino administration have been giving for the last six years, in terms of infrastructure.

Montenegro presented that for 2001 to 2010, the administration only recorded P5 to P6 billion annual investment flow whereas for 2010 to 2016, a total of P60 billion annual investment flow was recorded.

“The outgoing administration has allocated some 30 percent of the total budget to Mindanao’s infrastructure,” he said.

Meanwhile, Vicente T. Lao, chairman of the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC) for his part, said that reducing the poverty incidence in the country would be one of the major challenges the next administration will face.

“I think one major challenge for the next admin is poverty. We have seen a massive growth in Mindanao, however, if you look at the poverty index in the island, still very high, for as long as the poorest of the poor do not feel the benefit of the growth of Mindanao, inclusive growth is still far in sight,” Lao said.

Lao said that in improving investments, the administration only need to establish an environment that is conducive for business.

“Investors will come, no need of necessarily inviting or calling them,” he said.

But he was quick to add that in order for the country to be business and investor-friendly, peace and order and appropriate long-term policies must be enacted.

“The basic things you need to put in before investors will come in: peace and order and rules and regulations that are constant,” he said.

“The rules and regulations that are constant and reliable that cannot be easily shifted from one admin to another. For a national scale a six to 10-year plan is needed, this is important for hard investments because businessmen would want to know what will happen for at least the next six years in their company,” Lao added.
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