Davao economic zone eyed for Mindanao, EAGA food hub

Ma. Belen Ambi, chief of the management support services unit of the Department of Trade and Industry in Southern Mindanao and concurrently the  DTI point person for the BIMP -EAGA, said the hub could help push Mindanao's  food products to potential international markets like the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA) and help meet the demand for halal products in the Middle East.

EAGA comprises Brunei, East Indonesia, East Malaysia and Palawan and Mindanao in the Philippines.

The project, estimated to cost at least a billion pesos is  proposed to be built by a consortium of private stakeholders, at 70 percent funds sourced by the private sector for site development and 30 percent by the local government for off-site development. The national government, Ambi said, is being asked to make the NDC land  its equity.

The hub, based on the project's proposal, will focus on "value-adding activities to realize the full potential of agri-based products and adhering to international standards". 

It is envisioned to house facilities like cold and dry storage to accommodate both highly perishable and processed agricultural products. Cold storage will be designed to have separate sections for short, medium, and long-term storage. The storage facility will serve as trans-shipment point for goods bound for Manila, Cebu and abroad.

It will also have an allied service center such as cargo handling and trucking, packaging plant, water treatment plant, trading center, commercial center, research and development facilities such as food laboratories.

Cargo handling and trucking will include equipment such as forklifts, cranes, conveyor systems, trucks, trailers for handling and moving materials within the complex and to airports, seaports, and local markets.

The trading center will serve as auction or sales area between wholesalers and consolidators. It will be equipped with facilities to be made available for rental to farmers and fishers' groups, cooperatives and traders.

Banks, convenience stores, and business centers are also eyed for the commercial center. Another facility proposed in the center is a one-stop export-import documentation center.

The concept of the complex, according to the proposal, is to provide a rent-to-own scheme for lots allotted for the different facilities.

Considered among the primary facilities are the Halal Food Processing plant, provisions for vapor heat treatment (VHT), and other treatment facilities for export-bound fruits.

The proposal also cited the construction of a viaduct for fast access between Toril Fish Port and the Sasa Port. 

But Ambi said the government has not yet finalized the construction scheme, funding and time frame of the project. She said they have eyed a build-operate-transfer scheme. She also cited possibility for the government to float bonds as an option to finance the project.

Ambi noted that the national government is looking at the capacity of the local government to fund the project.

As of now, she said,  the Southern Philippines Construction Core Group working with the BIMP EAGA team is securing funding for the project's feasibility study. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)