Nat?l gov?t eyes 10 provinces in piloting national rubber program

The government will thus need at least P5 million for each of the 10 proposed pilot provinces province, or a total of P50 million.

The farmers who joined in the Kabacan meeting came from the provinces of Isabela, Benguet, Mindoro Occidental, Palawan, Antique, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Maguindanao, the same provinces being eyed for the country’s pilot areas for the national rubber program.

Maghirang said the draft of the national rubber program would be based on the proposal of North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, who has been positioning his province to become the rubber capital of the country. He has also urged other provinces to propagate rubber due to its economic potentials.

“We are first encouraging the local government units to set up rubber budwood gardens, and then establish nurseries and plantations later,” Maghirang said. The initial request is for a funding of P5 million for each of the 10 proposed pilot provinces for the national rubber program, but funding requirements will of course depend on your proposals,” Dr. Maghirang said.

The national government is reportedly targetting to develop an additional 15,000-hectare rubber plantation within the year.

"For a very long time, we have neglected the potential of the countryside, failed to focus on the more globally marketable high value crops like rubber, resulting in the pathetic condition of the people in the countryside," Piñol said.

He added that his province’s experience has proven that a refocused agricultural development program based on marketable high value crops is a very potent tool to combat poverty. Piñol noted that from the fifth poorest in 1998, North Cotabato is now ranked 29th among the more progressive provinces citing data from the National Statistical Coordination Board.

The governor said that rubber could help propel the country economically. He earlier painted a rosy picture of rubber production in the years to come, projecting it to become a P100-billion industry.

To achieve this, he said that rubber plantations should be increased to at least 50 million hectares, or about 500 million trees, in a span of 50 years.

As of 2005, there are only 81,862 hectares all over the country planted to rubber, with about one-fourth of which found in North Cotabato.

Piñol said that in 2003, rubber was the top export earner for Mindanao, registering sales of $44.2 million with a production volume of 32.8 million kilograms.

He pointed out that the demand for natural rubber in the world market is huge.

Rubber, Piñol said, is a versatile material used in the manufacture of 50,000 products used by man, from spaceships to submarines. He added that people are in contact or use 80 percent of rubber products everyday from, car tires, escalators, hose, insulators, adhesive tapes to condoms.