Government urged to give oil palm a fair share

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 3 Aug) – Former Davao City Councilor Peter T. Laviña on Monday appealed to the national government to give the oil palm industry an equal footing to coconut.

Speaking in Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City, Laviña said the government has overlooked the industry even if it is part of the mandate of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

He said much has been given to coconut industry that has shown little growth for the past years after being plagued with pests and calamities.

“There’s little attention on palm oil because the government has bias on coconut which is not developing until now,” Laviña said. The efforts done to expand the growth of the industry are largely initiated by the private sector, he added.

Laviña, who is part of the technical working group (TWG) of the Philippine Palm Oil Development Council Inc. (PPDCI), said the roadmap which calls to develop 300,000 hectares for oil palm has not yet been approved by the government.

He urged the government to craft and support policies that will promote the growth of the industry, which fills in 45 percent of the country’s requirement for cooking oil annually.

“We also encourage the government to adapt successful models and come up with a plant-now-pay-later scheme for the farmers,” he said.

Citing a report from Department of Agriculture (DA), he said that Mindanao has at least one million hectares of idle lands which are suitable for the planting of crops. But only 30,000 hectares have so far been developed.

The current demand of the country for palm oil averages from 350,000 to 450,000 metric tons, Laviña said, adding that the country’s requirement increases because the coconut is now being exported for high value uses such as cosmetics.

A multinational company based in Papua New Guinea is currently undertaking land surveys, community consultations, and farm demonstrations in Agusan del Sur for a possible oil palm expansion.

Three processing mills and a refinery have also been put up in Carmen, North Cotabato funded by another company based in Thailand. Each processing mill costs around $10 million, according to Laviña.

The firm used to be the country’s largest supplier of oil palm seedlings but later on expanded their operations to Mindanao.

Har Man Ahmad, senior manager of Malaysia Trade (Matrade), during the 2nd Brunei, Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) trade fair and business leaders’ conference last year, said five Malaysian companies are eyeing to develop 5,000 hectares for oil palm in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

If this pushes through, around 2,000 to 3,000 jobs will reportedly be generated.