By Ali G. Macabalang
NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental – While gaining initial success in ventures rallying both national government strides and southern Philippines-focused development interventions, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is eyeing this time the possible revival of the country’s plywood and veneer industry via multi-faceted tree planting drive.
For a start, industrial tree farming stakeholders will be convened this month to discuss the prospect and fortify fresh efforts in reviving the now dormant falcata-based plywood and veneer manufacturing, MinDA Chairman Manny Piñol in one of his latest online posts.
The idea surfaced when Sec. Piñol and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) president Emmanuel Herbosa alongside their parties were hosted by Naawan Mayor Dennis Roa for snacks at the “sikwatihan” mini-pub on a hilly roadside here after the visiting officials ceremonially sowed abaca plants in a nearby village here on Aug. 11.
(Read a separate story by The Philippine Muslim Today news on abaca planting among Higaonon tribe here.)
While in a huddle over cups of hot choco drinks specialized at the newly-opened “sikwatihan” house, Mayor Roa led the attention of the MinDA and DBP teams to an array of falcata trees thickly intercropped with cacao plants in a 20-hectare hilly land covering the mini-pub.
Informed that planters were gaining dismal income from growing falcata trees, Herbosa and Piñol said the MinDA-DBP partnership can also assist in harnessing the trees to revive plywood and veneer production in Mindanao, with the state bank offering to finance the venture.
The DBP has provided a P218-million loan for the construction of six solar-powered irrigation system (SPIS) units and a water supply system, which Herbosa alongside bank Director Jeannie Sandoval and Sec. Piñol initially inaugurated operations in Taraka, Lanao del Sur on Aug. 10.
The bank also financed the construction of P180-million multi-purpose center Misamis Priental Gov. Bambi Emano, Mayor Roa and the visiting officials launched here on Aug. 11. The center will house a modern town hall and an array of commercial stalls, the mayor said.
The MinDA will “convene Industrial Tree Farming stakeholders in a virtual convention before the end of this month to organize the Mindanao Industrial Tree Farming Development Council (MITFDC)” for the plywood and veneer making in the island region, Piñol said.
Falcata is a fast-growing tree species planted in many Mindanao mountainous areas, especially in Caraga Region, which had provided poor rural families with sources of income, he said.
But since tree farmers are disorganized and most of the logs are bought by private processors or exported to China, prices had been controlled and manipulated, he added.
The logs exported to China are processed into plywood and veneer and sold back to the Philippines, thus depriving the farmers of added value for their trees, Piñol said.
He said MinDA has earlier started organizing tree farming industry players into the Mindanao Industrial Tree Farming Development Council, similar to what it did with the Bamboo Industry.
At the height of the logging operations, Mindanao was known for its quality plywood produced by such companies as Sta. Clara and others, he said.
Later, the tree industry shifted to growing falcata for the country’s largest paper mill, the Paper Industries Corp. of the Philippines (PICOP) in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur. PICOP shut down operations years ago due to mismanagement, he said.
Bislig City officials led by Mayor Florencio Garay had been moving for its rehabilitation and reopening of the PICOP to boost the economic growth of the city and the region, Pinol said.
In separate occasions, DBP president Herbosa has lauded the MinDA’s thrust of building industries and undertaking the complete value chain in its production programs for food and other commodities.
“This is the approach that we should take in undertaking development projects so that we could provide jobs and boost the economy at the same time,” Herbosa said.
Apart from its interventions for agriculture-based development, the MinDA has also opened model towns in Mindanao for the national government’s “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program (BPBPP), particularly in Lanao del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces to help ease heavy traffic and informal settlers’ woes in urban centers like Metro Manila.
MinDA has also organized regional monitoring bodies to oversee the implementation of various government projects and prevent undue slippage, agency media liaison officer Adrian Tamayo said.
It may be recalled that the MinDA had been primarily tapped for mostly political interventions in Mindanao in the past administrations. (AGM)