THE Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said it is working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DTI-ARMM) in strengthening six model industry clusters composed of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to drive economic growth in Mindanao.
“The industry clustering project in ARMM is our way to develop the region’s value chain, enhance MSME competitiveness, and create quality jobs and sustainable economic returns. This way, the people of ARMM will also be able to realize the dividends of peace and improve their lives,” JICA Senior Representative Yuko Tanaka said on Tuesday.
JICA and DTI have identified rubber, seaweeds, palm oil, abaca, coffee and coconut industry clusters in conflict areas in the ARMM component provinces—Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi—as model industries where the region can succeed through investments in technology transfer.
Stakeholders of the project recently held a monitoring visit to the coconut and palm oil clusters in Maguindanao to further discuss industrialization plans for the SME clusters.
The JICA-DTI development cooperation ARMM Industry Clustering Capacity Enhancement Project or AICCEP is an offshoot from an earlier technical assistance from JICA, the National Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project (NICCEP) in 2012 that supported 24 SME industry clusters.
The ARMM industries selected were also identified under the JICA Development Study on Local Industry Promotion in ARMM in consultation with government, academe and stakeholders in Mindanao back in 2010 to 2012.
“The value of industry clustering, based on the success of DICCEP in Davao and NICCEP, is the increased collaboration among different players in the value chain [producers, processors, research institutes, buyers] to strengthen their industry’s competitive advantage,” Tanaka said.
ARMM depends heavily on the primary sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, which employ 66 percent of the region’s workforce. Only 13 percent of the ARMM economy is engaged in the secondary sector or business enterprises, and 6.7 percent in manufacturing, according to a JICA study.
JICA could then provide opportunities for ARMM to access technical support and marketing channels so their MSMEs could grow.
AICCEP, which began in 2014 and is ongoing, is also part of JICA’s Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Autonomous Regional Government that aims to support Mindanao’s peacebuilding process and sustainable, inclusive development.