Sustainable and competitive agriculture projects

To fast track the implementation of sustainable and competitive agriculture projects in the island, agriculture sector players in Mindanao have pushed for better access to credit facilities.

This was among the major issues raised by the Mindanao private sector and business groups at the second day of Mindanao Policy Roundtable Discussion (RTD) held in Manila, which was also attended by the high ranking officials from concerned government agencies.

Specifically, the private sector representatives highlighted the need for greater access to adequate and low cost sources of financing and capital to boost agricultural production in Mindanao.

“Better access to credit facility is deemed necessary in promoting productivity and cost competitiveness of our agricultural outputs,” Roberto Amores, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Chair for Agriculture, said.

Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup, in his response to the issues raised, has assured that the department is now expediting the release of the latest Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) implementing guidelines.

Upon the finalization of the guidelines, ACEF shall be extended to the project proponents in the form an interest-and collateral-free loan. This is considered as one of the most cost-effective loan options for the partners.

Various government financial institutions (GFIs) were also encouraged to have a special loaning scheme specific for farming-related projects.

Mindanao Development Authority chairperson Secretary Luwalhati Antonino has assured the agricultural players her office will constantly lobby for sufficient government support for the island’s agricultural sector.

“As a matter of fact, the President himself has instructed to have an additional budget for the coconut industry, because he personally recognizes the contributions of coconut production and exports to local and national economy,” Antonino cited.

The MinDA chair also underscored the long term strategy under Mindanao 2020 to strengthen and widen agriculture and agribusiness as linchpins for broad-based Mindanao development.

Another crucial issue raised during the discussion was the need for a streamlined customs regulation for agri-products of Mindanao, to which Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon agreed, saying that all the necessary infrastructure for the Philippine National Single window are already in place.

“The NSW is currently 50 percent complete, along with the electronic clearance system that we are also building,” Biazon reported.

NSW aims to establish a single submission and faster processing of application for licenses, permits and other authorizations required for a specific trade transaction. The system will interlink with DA and other related government agencies involved in trade regulations.

Biazon also added that the country will be a part of the ASEAN Single window come 2015.

“It is high time for us to shift our benchmark to the agricultural performances of our neighbours in the ASEAN,” Salacup said.

The policy roundtable on Mindanao business policy agenda is conducted to address the critical concerns that prevent the agriculture sector from harnessing its full potential leading towards domestic and export competitiveness.

Enhancing Mindanao’s agriculture competitiveness was one of the recommendations pushed by the private sector stakeholders to boost Mindanao’s role as the country’s food basket RTD jointly organized by the PCCI, MinDA and the USAID Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program.

The RTD, a prelude activity to the annual Mindanao Business Conference, is a culmination of the series of regional issues consultations conducted in various regions in Mindanao. This two-day activity serves as an avenue for private sector and government dialogues, specifically on the topmost crucial sectors of Mindanao.

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