More eco-zones needed in the countryside, Malaysian envoy tells Duterte

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 May) – The incoming administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte should put up more economic zones in the rural areas to spur growth and create economic activities in the countryside.

Speaking to reporters during “Wednesdays at Habi at Kape” in Abreeza Mall, Abdullah Zawawi Tahir, Malaysia’s consul general in Mindanao, said that the eco-zones are necessary to attract investors because these provide the infrastructure that they would need for their operations.

When investors locate in a rural area, he said they will generate employment and provide the locals with income but “most of the eco-zones are in Manila,” so all products from all over the country will have to be delivered there.

“It should be here. We have ports in Panabo and Davao cities,” Tahir said.

He explained that people who would land jobs here no longer have to go to the Philippine capital or even abroad to find employment.

The Duterte administration pointed out that it will “pursue a genuine agricultural development strategy by providing support services to the small farmers to increase their productivity, improve their market access, and develop the agricultural value chain by forging partnership with agribusiness firms.”

Among the plans include improving productivity of the farms as well as the irrigation infrastructure and support services.

In an earlier report, Duterte included in his eight-point economic agenda addressing the bottlenecks in the land administration and management system by improving coordination among various agencies – Land Registration Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and Department of Agrarian Reform – in terms of processing land titles.

“Mindanao has a future. Through my observation, you have all kinds of resources you need to develop,” Tahir said, referring to the island’s rich agricultural produce such as pineapple and banana.

On Mindanao peace, Tahir lauded Duterte’s willingness to put an end to the decades-long conflict in the island.

“There is willingness to seek long-lasting peace. This is a good start. Stop drugs and criminality and release all the hostages without condition. Foreign investors will come,” he added.

Tahir acknowledged that it would not be an overnight work to bring peace but he believed that the peace agenda of the Duterte administration will pave the way for a long-lasting peace.

“To change is not overnight,” the Malaysian envoy said.

Tahir noted that it took Malaysia 50 years before they peeled away from poverty yet they sometimes struggle to further improve as the “environment is changing and you have to adjust from time to time.”

He cited that the Philippine economy has been growing at a steady rate but “problem on employment and income” remains.

“When the best [economic] plan is already there, it should continue,” he said.