August 1, 2019
A project on industry clustering under the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ministry of Trade, Investment, and Tourism (MTIT) helped boost industries in five provinces in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as part of efforts to attract buyers, investors, as well as create jobs Mindanao's conflict-affected areas.
Under the project Market Driven Local Industry Promotion or MDLIP, six industry clusters were formed in BARMM, namely abaca, coconut, coffee, palm oil, rubber, and seaweed, further assisting 9,036 industry players in the region composed of farmers, producers, and micro enterprises. JICA's partner for the project, MTIT, was former Department of Trade and Industry – Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DTI-ARMM).
"Through the project, coconut farmers were able to directly sell to manufacturers and exporters and increase our sales by as much as 30%," said Mr. Bagiyan Angeles of the Maguindanao Coconut Industry Cluster.
As in the coconut industry cluster, the industry clustering strategy also benefited the Seaweed Industry Cluster as sales from seaweed reached P70-million in 2018, and P14 million in the month of February 2019 alone which is the highest over the past years.
Aside from direct access to processing companies, farmers are also able to improve the quality of their products and expand their markets. "We were able to adopt good agricultural practices from the trainings under the project and our products commanded higher prices," added Mr. Amirul Sahiron of the Sulu Coffee Industry Cluster. The group now sells their coffee at P110 per kilo from the P30 per kilo prior to the project after upgrading their products to export quality standards.
Industry cluster members have likewise achieved economies of scale to meet the demand of the local and international market. The Basilan Rubber Industry Cluster, for example, are working towards establishing two processing plants to improve the quality of rubber products and build the capacity of local workers.
In addition, cluster members likewise established linkages locally and internationally, while also benefiting from convergence of government efforts on industry development and promotion.
"As we transition to BARMM, lessons and best practices from MDLIP will help set directions in promoting the local industries in Mindanao. The project likewise created a handbook on industry clustering, and investor's guide to help attract more investors into the region, create jobs, and uplift the lives of the people," said Rosslaini Alonto-Sinarimbo, Chief of Technical Management Services of MTIT.
Despite the abundant natural resources, investments in Mindanao's conflict areas lagged behind other regions. The MDLIP initiative, however, cited the potential of said key industries to increase said investments and create jobs in the region.
Based on industry data over the past five years, the six industry clusters showed key competitive advantages that can help boost Mindanao's economy. For abaca, for example, BARMM has the highest production compared to other regions in the Philippines in 2018 with as much as 718 kilograms per hectare annually. For coconut, BARMM is also one of the top ten producers in the country with about over 376,000 hectares planted for coconuts. For coffee, BARMM is among the Philippines' top producers accounting for 10,436 metric tons annually.
In terms of other industry clusters, palm oil average yield per hectare is also among the highest in ARMM with 106,527 metric tons produced, accounting for 23% of total Philippine production. For the rubber industry, the Basilan Rubber Industry Cluster Council or BRICC is helping industry development efforts among local rubber processors and suppliers. For the seaweed sector, ARMM accounts for 45% of the Philippine production or 640,593 metric tons.
For more information on the project, you may view this video:
Aside from industry development and promotion, JICA has been supporting peace and development in Mindanao through road network development as well as capacity building and livelihood support towards a Bangsamoro government by 2022. JICA has also recently supported a project boosting the financial inclusion of agriculture stakeholders in the Bangsamoro. In 2006, JICA launched the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) that implemented about 650 small-scale infrastructure projects for the community.