RELOCATING AGRI, ENVI MAIN OFFICES TO MINDANAO
TAGUM CITY – Being the country’s food basket, Mindanao is being eyed as the new home of the agriculture department’s central office.
Addressing a huge cheering crowd estimated to be more or less 15,000 during a campaign rally here, PDP-Laban vice presidential bet and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said it is a bold move that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte will do if elected president.
Mindanao, Cayetano said, has been neglected over the years and it’s about time to give the island its due through Duterte’s plan to decentralize government operations throughout the country.
“This is in recognition of the island’s singular role as the nation’s food basket, and the decade’s worth of official neglect despite this undisputed distinction,” Cayetano added.
Aside from relocating the Department of Agriculture national office from Quezon City to Mindanao, the Duterte-Cayetano tandem is also considering the transfer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Energy (DoE) to Mindanao.
Government figures show that Mindanao accounts for at least 34 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, and 44 percent of the national food trade.
Its coconut industry alone accounts for 64 percent of the country’s total production.
Based on government reports as of May 2013, Mindanao is also a key driver of the minerals industry, with 20 of the 38 operating metallic mines of the country representing 53 percent of the number of mineral projects nationwide.
The island also accounts for 80 percent of the national total deposits of copper, nickel, and gold.
Fermin Adriano, a Mindanao policy adviser of former President Fidel V. Ramos, said the move to transfer the DA central office to Mindanao will be a welcome development.
“The relocation of the DA is fine because Mindanao agriculture represents 38 percent of the Philippine agricultural output,” Adriano said.
He said it may be more prudent to “appoint a Secretary or an undersecretary from Mindanao for the energy and environment portfolios.”
The matter about relocating the energy portfolio was also echoed by Marriz Agbon, founding chair of the influential Mindanao Business Council.
Agbon expressed reservation about this, because he said that “the reality is 70 percent of the Philippine power market is in Luzon.”
“We’re talking here of industries and other large power-consuming businesses,” said Agbon, who is a former national focal person of the DA-DAR-DENR-DILG National Convergence Initiative for Sustainable Rural Development and a former member of the National Renewable Energy Board.
At the national level, Agbon believes that eliminating the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) will have tremendous impact on the Philippine power industry.
The creation of WESM is part of a reform package under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.
He added that “in the case of Mindanao, it will do well for government to pursue a distributed energy policy environment wherein distribution utilities are encouraged to develop/solicit power projects in accordance with their respective projections of local economic development.”
Agbon, however, agreed to bringing the other key departments to the South.
“Relocating the central offices of the DA and DENR to Mindanao makes sense because it focuses government’s priorities on the production base for both agriculture and agroforestry. Market linkage infrastructure is a concrete need in bringing the volumes of Mindanao produce cost-effectively and quality-wise to the Visayas, Metro Manila and China markets,” he added.
Another government executive, who requested anonymity, said, “with Mindanao regarded as the country’s food basket by contributing 30 percent of national food trade and producing eight (8) out of top 10 agri export commodities, relocating the DA office to Mindanao makes a lot of sense.”/MP