Executive Director's Corner

Three poles of development

FROM June 22 to July 6, I island-hopped for a hectic 15 days.

First was a visit to the Davao International Container Port in Panabo City, Davao del Norte. Second, was Caluya, Antique, to observe the thriving seaweed farms, which also allowed me to see the Semirara mining site. Third, was in Piddig, Ilocos Norte, to monitor local government projects.

Davao International Container Port


Barring none, it is one of the most modern container ports in the country. It is a joint venture between Anflocor and Dole-Stanfilco, the leading producers and exporters of fresh Cavendish bananas in the Philippines. The port serves some 50,000 hectares of banana farms, large and small.

DICP is driven by state-of-the-art terminal operating system (TOS) that powers the efficient movement of incoming and outgoing containerized cargoes.

Six international shipping lines make calls each day loading mostly (88 percent) refrigerated vans from bananas to pineapples. The P5 billion investment paid for a 250-meter berth that can accommodate post-panamax vessels.  It has ship-to-shore cranes, rubber-type gantry cranes, container yard, reach stackers, empty container depot, reefer points, small farmer-exporters consolidation unit, and other facilities.  DICP has a capacity of 500,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) a year.

Compare this with the defunct Sasa Port PPP (public-private partnership), which would have been estimated to cost P19 billion with almost the same capacity. The quid pro quo was reportedly to increase port charges by 80 percent.

The previous Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has never set foot in DICP but claimed that DICP has no facilities for small exporters, when in fact it has.

The major challenge faced by DICP was that it was literally squeezed by the previous government by issuing only annual permits to operate, instead of long-term one. The DOTC insisted on pushing the Sasa Port PPP, a place already overcrowded, and probably better off for local shipping and cruise ships.

The DICP is a classic case of a private initiative being stifled by the government.

(Disclosure:  I spent my childhood years in Panabo).

Caluya, Antique

It was a discovery of sorts.  Caluya has seven islands. It is located on the northern tip of Antique and Aklan. It is near San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.  It hosts 30,000 people, and has posted rapid population growth since 2000. It has good tourism potentials and only two hours by boat from Boracay. Caluya has a lady mayor, Genevieve Lim-Reyes.

Panagatan Island is a major seaweed area with a competitive trading system. Raw dried seaweeds are either brought to Cebu for processing, or Cavite and Manila via San Jose City. Other production areas include Sibato, Sibolo and Caluya islands. There are at least 4,000 seaweed farmers in the municipality.  Panagatan alone produces about 500 tons of raw dried seaweeds valued at P13 million per month.  The volume can double during peak production months.  Panagatan has been known for good quality seaweed supplier comparable to that of Palawan.

Semirara Island has an area of 5,500 hectares and a population of 16,600.  It is home to the Semirara Mining Co.’s Panian Mine, an open-pit coal mine in operation since 1999. Its reserves could last another 30 years. Unong pit, which produced from 1984 to 2000, is now a deep water lake with tourism potential.  (Disclosure: I took geology and mining courses at UP Diliman. I understand the economics of open-pit and underground mining).

Semirara Island has three barangays: Semirara where the mine is located, and two agricultural barangays, Alegria and Tinogbok.

Barangay Semirara benefits from the P300 million royalty a year from the mining firm. So do the Caluya local government (P290 million) and Antique (P90 million).

Barangay Semirara is a thriving community due to the 3,000 workers with a monthly payroll of P100 million a month. The Semirara mining management built an impressive array of community infrastructure:  brick workers’ housing, a very nice (national artist Abueva decorated) parish church and impressive plaza.

The company has developed mangrove forests, planted trees and ornamentals,  grows giant clams,  and declared the area a marine sanctuary. It supplies almost free electricity to the villages. Its giant clams project for reefs rehabilitation around Semirara Island won 1st runner up in the CSR Category of the Asean Energy Awards in Kuala Lumpur in October 2015.

In contrast, the two other barangays practice subsistence agriculture. Farm yields are low and organized multi-cropping is primitive.

Poverty is very evident in spite of the idle and under-utilized lands.

Piddig, Ilocos Norte

I visit Piddig four times a year. The first family has become friends, and former Mayor Eddie Guillen is a UA&P Executive program alumnus. His spouse, Gina, is the new mayor. Eddie decided not to run for a third term to focus on shepherding the Piddig multi-purpose cooperative. Eddie is a civil engineer-contractor.

The LGU (local government unit) projects are proceeding well. First, there is a 1,600-ha coffee national convergence project:  Robusta and Liberica in the lowlands; and Arabica in the highlands.

Second, the pilot mechanized rice farm consolidation is off to a good start, and hopes to increase yield from five tons per ha to over six tons per ha, reduce cost, and improve irrigation scheduling.

Third, a flood control impounding dam is under construction.  It has a capacity of 30 million cubic meters. It is expected to control flooding, grow tilapia, and generate high cropping intensity for diversified crops in the dry season.

Fourth, Piddig is the first recipient of a forest land-use plan by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It hopes to plant 11,000 ha with productive trees, such as tamarind and  fruit trees,  to benefit the cooperative. The requirement is 800 trees per ha. Piddig is now developing nurseries of marketable products.


My wife and I visited Xiamen, China from June 12 to 20.  Xiamen is a clean and green city, with little chaotic traffic.

My daughter finished her Master’s degree in Economics at Xiamen University.  The University was funded by a Malaysian rubber magnate in the 1920s.  My wife finally met her six first cousins in Jinjiang with the help of my daughter who searched for them. My daughter had to translate.

How is this possible that my Ilocana-Davaonon wife has relatives there?  Her father Daniel is the eldest of five siblings from Sinait, Ilocos Sur. Macario, the third sibling, left Sinait for Jinjiang  with his uncle in the 1930s and never returned.  Even with the language barrier, it was an emotional visit.

I gathered some 70 percent of all Chinoys came from Jinjiang, a poor village in the late 19th century and most of the 20th century.  No longer. The trip from Xiamen to Jinjiang just took 30 minutes by bullet train over 80 kilometers. Jinjiang exports such products as rubber shoes, slippers, umbrellas and food mixes.

(The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP.  The author is Vice Chair of the MAP AgriBusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific. Feedback at <[email protected]> and <[email protected]>.  For previous articles, please visit <map.org.ph>)

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