The departments of Agriculture (DA) and Trade and Industry (DTI) have signed an agreement to strengthen rubber production in the Philippines.
In a statement on Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said both departments signed the Joint Statement of Commitment for the Philippine Rubber Industry to “support the development” of the sector “through the implementation of the Philippine Industry Roadmap 2017-2022.”
This roadmap “will contribute to the inclusive growth and poverty alleviation of rubber-producing provinces in [the]southern Philippines,” he added, noting that rubber plays a crucial role in the country’s agriculture plan.
“The agricultural areas I’ve visited suffer from…soil erosion and landslides. These are indications of poor agricultural planning, where farmers are planting crops where we should be planting rubber trees,” the agriculture chief said.
The roadmap aims to generate investments, as well as increase incomes and sales. It also aims to find ways to turn the sector into a key economic growth driver.
“This industry is critical in helping achieve…real inclusive growth, since [it]involves over 55,000 small farmers and growers,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a separate statement.
According to him, a cluster approach that addresses gaps and opportunities in the entire value chain, from rubber production to the manufacture of final products, would be implemented.
“DTI is committed to expand market and processing opportunities for their products by bringing in more investors on rubber processing and rubber-based products, like tire companies, and linking them with local rubber suppliers,” Lopez said.
Local rubber can also be used in road projects under the government’s “Build Build Build” program, he added.
Other agencies and organizations involved in the initiative are the Science, Environment, and Agrarian Reform departments; the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) and Mindanao Development Authority (Minda); the Philippine Rubber Industries Association and the Philippine Rubber Farmers Associaiton (PRFA); and the University of Southern Mindanao (USM).
The Philippines currently contributes 1 percent to global natural rubber production, compared to Indonesia’s 25 percent and Thailand’s 34 percent.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, production grew by 8.9 percent to 138.24 thousand metric tons (MT) from 126.94 thousand MT the year before.
Ninety percent of rubber farmers are small growers. Most are from Regions 11 (Zamboanga Peninsula) and 12 (Soccsksargen), and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Region 11 groups Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay.
South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and Gen. Santos City make up Region 12.
ARMM is made up of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
Zamboanga accounts for 42.7 percent, or 59.03 thousand MT, of the country’s total rubber production.