Philippines’ agricultural basin held back by poor roads

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A “skylab” in Mindanao

The Philippine island of Mindanao, source of eight out of 10 agri-commodity exports in the country, may not be the first notion that pops into many Filipinos’ minds when they eat, but maybe it should.

The region, composed of the country’s second largest island, has been more successful at gaining notoriety for the decades-long Muslim insurgency it has endured, as well as being the recipient of debilitating severe weather. Most recently, Typhoon Pablo ripped through the island in late 2012, affording a fresh reminder of how vulnerable remote farmlands are.

Indeed, although Mindanao has shown perseverance, generating more than $3 billion worth of the agriculture sector’s exports, or 60 percent of the country’s total in 2012, the island has stood still in time, a remote and forlorn subject at the edge of the world, even for the Philippines.

As a result, many farmers are not only hindered by the seasonal destruction of typhoons, but also by neglected infrastructure, if not the absence of it entirely. The reality: Mindanao farmers must truck over dirt paths to bring their produce to market, causing additional costs related to vehicle repair.

“Connectivity to agricultural areas is a large issue,” Department of Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Romeo Momo, the official charged with Mindanao, told Inside Investor on July 17.

“Mindanao’s rich agricultural provinces, such as North Cotabato and South Cotabato, need good road connectivity between production areas and the market. Unfortunately, right now the DWPH’s mandate is to construct national roads to the market, whereas the people need connections from the national roads to production centers,” Undersecretary Momo said.

That Mindanao’s active and rich agricultural centers are located within the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), site of much of the conflict and chaos out of the island, makes rehabilitating and constructing infrastructure no easier.

“The national roads in ARMM are not on par with those of others in Mindanao,” said Undersecretary Momo.

Placed in such as significant, if underappreciated, role for the Philippine economy, Mindanao has nonetheless proven itself through the thick and thin, posting export growth of 16.7 percent in 2012, more than double compared to the entire country’s 7.6 percent increase in exports during the same year.

“Despite the challenges brought about by natural calamities, Mindanao managed to post positive international trade growth, an indication of the region’s strength and resilience,” said Mindanao Development Authority Chair Luwalhati Antonino.

Moreover, Mindanao has recently attracted international markets through the emerging popularity of agri-based products, such as cacao, coco sugar, and coco water.

“Coconut copra and palm kernel remained as the top export products of the island-region last year, cornering almost US$1 billion, or 21.26 percent of Mindanao’s total exports,” explained Antonino.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

A “skylab” in Mindanao

The Philippine island of Mindanao, source of eight out of 10 agri-commodity exports in the country, may not be the first notion that pops into many Filipinos’ minds when they eat, but maybe it should.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

IMG_2790e
A “skylab” in Mindanao

The Philippine island of Mindanao, source of eight out of 10 agri-commodity exports in the country, may not be the first notion that pops into many Filipinos’ minds when they eat, but maybe it should.

The region, composed of the country’s second largest island, has been more successful at gaining notoriety for the decades-long Muslim insurgency it has endured, as well as being the recipient of debilitating severe weather. Most recently, Typhoon Pablo ripped through the island in late 2012, affording a fresh reminder of how vulnerable remote farmlands are.

Indeed, although Mindanao has shown perseverance, generating more than $3 billion worth of the agriculture sector’s exports, or 60 percent of the country’s total in 2012, the island has stood still in time, a remote and forlorn subject at the edge of the world, even for the Philippines.

As a result, many farmers are not only hindered by the seasonal destruction of typhoons, but also by neglected infrastructure, if not the absence of it entirely. The reality: Mindanao farmers must truck over dirt paths to bring their produce to market, causing additional costs related to vehicle repair.

“Connectivity to agricultural areas is a large issue,” Department of Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Romeo Momo, the official charged with Mindanao, told Inside Investor on July 17.

“Mindanao’s rich agricultural provinces, such as North Cotabato and South Cotabato, need good road connectivity between production areas and the market. Unfortunately, right now the DWPH’s mandate is to construct national roads to the market, whereas the people need connections from the national roads to production centers,” Undersecretary Momo said.

That Mindanao’s active and rich agricultural centers are located within the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), site of much of the conflict and chaos out of the island, makes rehabilitating and constructing infrastructure no easier.

“The national roads in ARMM are not on par with those of others in Mindanao,” said Undersecretary Momo.

Placed in such as significant, if underappreciated, role for the Philippine economy, Mindanao has nonetheless proven itself through the thick and thin, posting export growth of 16.7 percent in 2012, more than double compared to the entire country’s 7.6 percent increase in exports during the same year.

“Despite the challenges brought about by natural calamities, Mindanao managed to post positive international trade growth, an indication of the region’s strength and resilience,” said Mindanao Development Authority Chair Luwalhati Antonino.

Moreover, Mindanao has recently attracted international markets through the emerging popularity of agri-based products, such as cacao, coco sugar, and coco water.

“Coconut copra and palm kernel remained as the top export products of the island-region last year, cornering almost US$1 billion, or 21.26 percent of Mindanao’s total exports,” explained Antonino.

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