Written by John Carlo Tria

Last week in this same column I wrote about the expanding coffee and cacao production through coffee and chocolate powder plants to provide alternatives for farms which cannot meet the quality requirements of specialty producers.

Another crop is coconut.

The Davao, Zamboanga peninsula, and Northern Mindanao regions account for 39% of all coconut produced in the country. With greater awareness of the benefits of coconut products, such as coco diesel, activated carbon for face masks, coco fatty acids for cleaning agents, coconut water, virgin coconut, and milled oils, manufacturing these will create millions of new jobs and added opportunities for  2.5 million coconut – mostly upland – farmers.

If more than the current coconut processing plants making the above products were built in Mindanao where the source is, at the very least, the island will no longer need to import these products from Manila.

Combined with coffee and chocolate plants, I can imagine at the minimum, hundreds of jobs for Mindanao’s engineers who have had to leave the island for jobs. With lower power costs and tailored incentives, I see possibilities for increased manufacturing, which is an imperative for a resilient economy.

Local econ analysis and investment promotion

As recommended in the recent Minbizcon resolutions, investment promotion at the regional level needs to be engaged, leveraging on the region’s advantages, as I wrote in my Sept. 14 column.

In a recent forum of the Mindanao Development Authority, I suggested to academics in the audience that regional level economic analysis needs to be done in collaboration with government. They know their local economies, and can write localized economic forecasts to highlight opportunities for their MSMEs who need this knowledge to innovate for recovery and resilience. This is another imperative.

E-governance bill

Apart from tax and economic measures such as the CREATE and FIST bill, an interesting proposed legislative measure is Senate Bill (SB) No. 1738, the E-Governance bill of Senator Bong Go.

This mandates government to establish a strong resource-sharing info and communications network covering both national and local government and build digital portals for public service delivery.

I believe this bill complements and supports the 2018 Ease of Doing Business Law which is now being implemented in many agencies ( which mandates fixed time periods for issuance of permits), and provides more seamless transactions for private citizens and MSMEs accessing vital government services such as permit renewal.

Doing transactions online enables MSMEs to save time and effort, allowing them to focus on operations that make them more competitive and recover.

New forecasts, and hope

Updated projections about our recovery from the Asian Development Bank forecast a 6.5% growth for 2021. Others offer similar projections. If we keep our economy safely reopening under a reasonable balance as pushed by the country’s economic managers, keep inflation and food costs within manageable levels , boost consumption by buying local, we can tread that recovery path. This will also be boosted by the Bayanihan 2 bill and other spending measures, plant, plant, plant and upped infrastructure.

Image from da.gov.ph

Article first appeared in the Manila Bulletin website last September 28, 2020.