NANNING, CHINA: The province of Isabela has “charmed” its way to prominence in the 10th China-Asean Expo (CAExpo) in this city.
Isabela has been chosen as one of the Cities of Charm in the trade fair.
Cities or Charm are handpicked cities or provinces across the 10 Asean countries and China that have been given the chance to exhibit their offerings in trade, business, culture and tourism.
Isabela showcased its success as the Philippines’ top corn producer and rice supplier.
Inside the Philippine booth of the “Cities of Charm” hall of the 10th China-Asean Expo (CAExpo), Isabela provincial officials said it was an honor to be named as one of this year’s charming cities.
“We are thankful to be showcased here at the CAExpo where we believe we can have an access to foreign markets and create a bigger demand for our high-quality commodities,” Isabela Governor Faustino Dy 3rd said.
Despite not as tourism-driven as other Philippine cities of charm in the past, Isabela officials urged investors to support the already strong agricultural status of the province.
Dy urged an audience of Chinese investors to “consider investing in agricultural product processing as it offers income opportunities” from the industrial and mainstream commercial sectors.
‘Feeding the nation’
Provincial agriculturist Danilo Tumamao said that despite agricultural success, Isabela “remains poor” because only it and Nueva Ecija are the self-sufficient provinces in terms of rice production.
Isabela pales behind Nueva Ecija as the top producer of rice in the country, but because of Nueva Ecija’s higher population, it is this northeastern province that “feeds the nation.”
“We are number one in rice surplus. The extra rice that we produce are the ones distributed across the nation,” Tumamao said.
If new investments should come in they would be happy to achieve their target of 9 to 10 tons of rice per hectare. At present, they only harvest 4.75 to 4.8 tons per hectare.
“More than that can be exported to other countries like the Middle East,” he said, adding that Milagrosa and Dinorado were some of their sought-after varieties.
Tumamao said there are good investment opportunities in farming machinery, technology transfers, better processing equipment, irrigation systems, water impoundments and rice breeds tolerant to drought.
Infrastructure-wise, Tumamao said that more farm-to-market roads, bridges and transportation system should be built in to help farmers double their yield and traders to market the rice.
Other priority agriculture and aquaculture industries involve the production and processing of dairy, mangoes, sugarcanes, bananas, seaweeds, tilapia, prawn, bamboo, and rattan.
Isabela provincial treasurer Theresa Araneta-Flores said there are still four towns in Isabela that are far from centers of business in Ilagan City: Palanan, Maconacon, Dinapigue and Divilacan.
“Imagine Sierra Madre in between the city and these towns. There is no linkage yet to these coastal towns except by light planes or ferry boats,” she said.
Flores said these towns have potential as retirement hubs, fishing centers or tourism spots but “they are still untapped and their potentials are not yet discovered.”
Although there is already a coastal development plan, the national government’s investments are short for these coastal towns. Even the roll-on, roll-off ferry, which was planned for the Isabela, was shelved.
Flores said that in spite of attractions like the Magat Dam, the biggest dam in Southeast Asia, and the Ilagan Sanctuary, Isabela is “primarily agricultural-based having wide tracts of land” and investments to this sector will boost the overall economic performance of the province.
Dy urged investors to consider Isabela, which is the first province in the Philippines to generate energy from biomass fuel using agricultural waste and the biggest supplier of bioethanol fuel.
The “Cities of Charm” showcased other cities and provinces of the Philippines like Cebu, Bohol, Palawan, Manila and Laoag, Subic Bay; Davao; Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo; Zamboanga City; Puerto Princesa; and Clark Freeport Zone.