Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato agriculture office chief, said they are presently preparing the identified plantation or production areas for the entry of several potential investors.
"These are areas that are suitable for planting of various industrial crops and are ready for investments or projects," he said.
Legaste said the identified lands, which area located in the municipalities of T'boli and Surallah, have passed evaluation in terms of their adaptability to planting of industrial crops, rainfall level, soil classification, elevation and mineral composition.
He said several investors have already submitted proposals to utilize the initial 30,000 hectares that had been opened by the local government of South Cotabato.
But he said they are still evaluating the proposals, especially in terms of the benefits of both the investors and local farmers or landowners.
"We're trying to balance the benefits to both players. What we want is a win-win situation for all of them," Legaste said.
He said among the investors that had made representation with the provincial government was independent oil player Eastern Petroleum Corporation.
He said officials of Eastern Petroleum's Eastern Renewable-Fuels Corp. had met at least three times last year with South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes and other local officials for the proposed opening of a cassava plantation in the area.
Legaste said the company is initially planning to establish a 5,000-hectare cassava plantation this year.
He said the company will continue its expansions for the next three years in preparation for the construction of a proposed P1.8-billion ethanol plant in the area.
As part of the local government's preparations for the entry of Eastern Renewables, Legaste said they are planning to negotiate with the company for a "reasonable price" for cassava that would be produced by local farmers.
"We want our farmers to get a reasonable price for their produce based on their income out of corn so they would not be forced to go back to corn farming later on," Legaste added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)