During a trip to Finland on 19-21 May, Philippine Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol sought to advance the Philippine government’s strategy towards productive and sustainable agriculture, benefiting in particular this time, Mindanao’s rubber farmers and farmers around critical river basins in the country.
The agriculture secretary announced in Helsinki that the government is poised to sign an agreement later this year with Finnish company Black Donuts Engineering, Inc. in order to formalize the tire engineering firm’s feasibility study for the construction of the $200-million local rubber tire facility in Mindanao, Pilipinas Agila Tyre Manufacturing (PATM). The goal of the manufacturing plant is to produce 4 million tires per year for cars, pick-up trucks and other small-type trucks. PATM will use homegrown Philippine rubber, giving rubber farmers an assured market for their produce which would help stabilize the price of local rubber.
In addition, Secretary Piñol sees the project as an opportunity for overseas Filipino workers to invest in said local venture.
Earlier in March, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was jointly signed by the Philippine Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Rubber Farmers Association and Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc. for the construction of a local tire manufacturing plant. The signing event was held in Malacañang with President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez witnessing the occasion.
Also in Helsinki, following consultations with key Finnish forestry experts, Secretary Piñol disclosed the government’s plan to develop the agriculture potentials of key river basins in the Philippines, such as the Cagayan River Basin and the Agusan River Basin, through a strategic agro-forestry project by the government. The project, aimed to be designed with the help of Finnish expertise and technology, is projected to increase productivity while ensuring protection of areas near river basins through a stewardship system by farming families and a guaranteed income and market for their produce.
The agriculture sector employs about 29% of the country’s labor but contributes only 10 per cent of the GDP. Philippine agriculture is struggling with low productivity, weak economies of scale and inadequate infrastructure.
The Duterte administration has thus set among its ten-point priority agenda, the promotion of rural and value chain development towards increasing agriculture and rural enterprise productivity.