Mindanao’s distinctive standpoint and huge potentials of its industries are considered significant contributors to the country’s export performance and economic development.

“Mindanao is in a special position to provide solid support system to export growth and economic development,” DTI Undersecretary Ponciano C. Manalo Jr. said during the recent investment conference organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) through its Regional Operations Development Group (RODG) and in partnership with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Mindanao seen to back PH Economic Development

Dubbed as “Investing in Priority Industry Clusters for SMEs: A Conference”, this conference aims to promote awareness on the Philippines’ cluster-based industrial development strategy and to improve investments in the countryside, mainly in Mindanao.

“The opportunities in Mindanao are so meaningful in this administration which government sectors work together and support priority in agriculture, agro-industrial food processing, manufacturing and even tourism,” Manalo said.

He also said Mindanao is the country’s second largest land-locked area that accounts for 34 percent of the Philippines’ total land area. It is on top of the list of investment opportunities given incentives by the Board of Investments (BOI).

“Tropical fruits like coconut, mangosteen, banana, pineapple and papaya are global favorites. Since 2006, the Philippines ranked number three among all the biggest coconut producing countries,” Manalo said.

He noted eight of the top 10 provinces producing coconut are in Mindanao and the Philippines ranks number one in the global share copra production.

“Coco coir and peat are traditional export favorites. Today, beyond traditional coconut exports, value added products like desiccated coconut, virgin coconut oil, and now coconut water,” Manalo said.

He also said global trends and perception on the use coconut have changed dramatically in the last five years. Positive assurances on coconut as enabler dietary and nutritional health has given rise to consumer demand for coconut based food ingredients. Coconut derivatives have now been sought after ingredients even in high-end cosmetics. Coconut milk and coconut water are now beverages of choice by the young, mobile, trendy and health conscious men and women all over the world.

Moreover, he noted the coconut industry is a huge investment opportunity but there are other industries to consider like carrageenan, which is compound extracted from a variety of seaweeds only commonly found or farmable in the clear waters of Southern Mindanao, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“Carageenan has many uses and its main application is on food products where it is used primarily for its gellying and thickening properties. Seaweed production is an integral part of the Mindanao industry cluster,” Manalo said.

In 2001, the Philippines ranked as number one producer of carrageenan and accounted for 40.7 percent of total world production capacity. The country is the world’s largest exporter of processed carrageenan, which is a US$ 5 billion global market.

Manalo said DTI will continue to develop industry clusters and harness potentials of local produce. In 2013, it plans to launch 800 Shared Service Facilities (SSF) to enable farmers sell products at prices above commodity prices locally or for export consumption.

“Though the SSF, farmers will have the capability to convert raw farm produce to value-added marketable products through capital equipment or process interventions. These (SSF) are commonly shared by the community and monitored by a local DTI officer,” Manalo added.

He also urged businesses to take advantage of DTI programs for trade and investment promotion in the countryside such as the Regional Interactive Platform for Philippine Exporters (RIPPLES), which provides knowledge assistance from business start-up to top level engagement; and Doing Business in Free Trade Area (DBFTA), which crates awareness of the benefits of Free Trade Agreements.

In addition, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Inc. President Takashi Ishigami presented the big potential for palm oil industries in Mindanao.

Ishigami said that there is big potential for the palm oil industry in Mindanao considering the world’s current palm oil production and increasing population.

In his presentation, Ishigami noted that Indonesia and Malaysia have been major players of palm oil production. In 2012, Indonesia and Malaysia produced 28.5 and 19 million metric tons of palm oil, respectively. The Philippines has only been producing only 0.1 million metric tons of palm oil per year from 1995 to 2012.

He also noted this industry could help create jobs and prosperity for the Philippines, just like Malaysia and Indonesia. (end)