Monday, June 26, 2006

Natural Resources Top ARMM Business Confab In Basilan

BASILAN ISLAND (Darwin Wee / 26 Jun) Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Monday began to discuss the region's most important industries -- rubber, seaweeds and aquamarine products, and poultry and agro-marine -- in an effort to further improve its quality and production.

Speaking before hundreds of delegates to the two-day ARMM 5th Business Congress in Lamitan town, Muslimin Jann Jakilan, the region's Labor and Employment chief, said three national experts on agribusiness have been invited to give the businessmen and investors an overview and the benefits of the identified priorities industries in ARMM.
He said Dr Eugenio A. Alcala, executive director of Philippine Rubber Board, Inc., will give an insight on how to invest in rubber planting with regards to the region's favorable soil and agro-climatic condition.

For seaweeds, Atty. Malcolm J. Sarmiento, Jr., director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, will also discussed how to intensify seaweed production to meet the increasing demand both in local and foreign markets.

Vicente Lao, chairman of the Maharlika Agro-Marine Venture Corp., on the other hand is expected to tackle the region's potential to be the country's Halal poultry production center, which will be incorporated into the crafting of the ARMM's Halal Development Framework at the end of the congress Tuesday.
Ishak Mastura, ARMM's Trade Secretary, express optimism that rubber, seaweeds, and Halal poultry production will lift the region's current economic status. "From being the poorest region in the country and a known site of decades-old Moro rebellion, ARMM is gradually transforming into an investment destination. And we would like to focus our directions in seaweeds, rubber, and the Halal poultry production," he told reporters.

He said the ARMM is currently the country's top producer of carrageenan. "We supply 70% of the country's total seaweeds production. A total of 332,881 metric tons of dried seaweeds of the euchema specie alone were produced in the year 2000 for domestic consumption and export to countries like the United States, Japan, and Europe, generating a significant share of the country's export earnings," he said.

Carrageenan is any of a group of closely related colloids derived from Irish moss and several other red algae, widely used as a thickening, stabilizing, emulsifying, or suspending agent in industrial, pharmaceutical, and food products.
Data from the ARMM also showed that the region has recorded a total fish production of 408,086 metric tons last year. Fish production comes from three sources: commercial fishing, municipal fishing, and aqua-culture.
At present, the Muslim region has 89 municipal sea and fishing ports and strategically located all over Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces, which comprise the ARMM.

Mastura noted that the ARMM is hosting one of the biggest ports in the country –- the International Port of Polloc -- which serves as a facilitator of commerce and trade into the region and its neighboring areas.
"In the BIMP-EAGA trade framework, the Polloc port has been identified as one of the country's important hub enters for the movement of goods and people within the growth polygon," he said.
ARMM has a total land of 1.4 million hectares or 4.5% of the Philippines total land area, teeming with vast reserves that offer excellent opportunities for resource-based processing industries. Of this total land area, about 70% are classified as prime agricultural land or about 803 thousand 763 hectares; 22% as forest lands or about 320,832 has., and about 102,248 hectares; 5% are classified as wetland, built-up area and other land uses 3%.
Mastura said investments in ARMM for the first quarter of this year grew by 10 percent, with P146 million compared to last year's first quarter earning of only P131.4 million. "This only shows that the region is now starting to pick up in terms of investors," he said

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