PEZA calls for higher budget for Mindanao

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    With nearly P300 billion worth of projects allocated for the region, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is pushing for the issuance of a resolution urging President Duterte in the last two-minutes of his term to  increase the budget of Mindanao.

    At the Mindanao Speaks Up Forum last week, Charito Plaza, director-general of PEZA, also called for the establishment of public ecozones in each of the regions in Mindanao to replicate the success of the four government-owned ecozones in Luzon which helped industrialize these areas.

    Plaza also called for the creation of a joint planning and programming mechanisms that would strengthen efforts to make Mindanao the “land of fulfillment.”

    There are currently 37 ecozones in Mindanao of which 13  are agro-industrial;  15  information technology parks and centers; 8 manufacturing  and; one tourism.

    Plaza laments that Mindanao only gets 12 to 16 percent of the national budget even if it provides 40 percent of the national food requirement and accounts for 30 percent of national food trade.

    Mindanao produces two million metric tons  of agriculture products of which half are aquaculture.

    In her presentation, Plaza said Mindanao produced 99.99 percent of the country’s rubber;
    91 percent of palm oil;  89 percent of cacao, 88.8 percent pineapple, 82 percent of banana; 73 percent of coffee; 57 percent of seaweed and; 49 percent of coconut.

    Mindanao’s top exports include coconut oil, tuna, pineapple and canned sardines. The region also has huge potential to export organic rice, coconut and fruits.

    “We hope the collaboration of leaders (in Mindanao) will ensure the realization of the identified priority proposals of this government. In basketball terms, we are in the last two-minutes of the President’s term… and we come together to support a resolution respectfully endorsing the various priority projects in Mindanao for funding by the national government agencies… and to declare idle public lands in Mindanao as public ecozones of PEZA,” Plaza said.

    In the same forum, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado bared P64 billion worth of funds have been allocated for key infrastructure projects in Mindanao on top of P200 billion  identified for social development, livelihood and support to local government units in the region.

    Avisado said for this year, P15.7 billion was allocated for the 5,415 infrastructure projects in Mindanao of the Department of Public Works and Highways. Of that, 85 percent, or 4,616 are categorized as comprehensively released by virtue of the General Appropriations Act.

    Avisado said for this year, P1.6 billion was appropriated to the Department of Transportation for the Mindanao railway project which is expected to be in full operation by the second quarter of 2023.

    Currently, right-of-way proceedings and the procurement of a project management for the project are ongoing.

    The government has allotted P70 billion in social development, P84 billion for livelihood and P38 billion for support to LGUs in Mindanao. (I. Isip)