Feature: Seaweed industry in Sitangkai's treasure from the sea
by Mimi G. Bern-Edaga
Zamboanga City (February 14) -- Favorable environment for agri-business. Local governance. Basic Social Services. Natural Resource Management. Power, infrastructure and transportation. These are the five development imperatives that are considered as strategic options in the Sitangkai Seaweed Industry Master Plan.
The Sitangkai Consortium said during the recent donor's forum at the Orchid Garden Hotel, reported that there are 10 hectares seaweed farm presently existing in the area but it has a total of 60 hectares seaweeds farm potential.
Sibutu Mayor Kuyoh Pajiji who claims to be a seaweed farmer himself said an average farmer who normally tills1/4 hectare earns P22,000 annually. This is equivalent to a measly monthly income of P1,800 only.
Considered as a "sunrise industry" of the Philippines by reason of its strong economic potential, both in the regional and global market, seaweed farming has become a major dollar earner for the country and a primary source of income to an estimated 10,000 seaweed farmers living in 110 pondohans or temporary stopover or residence, scattered all over Sitangkai.
But the seaweed farmers has yet to get the feel of the seaweeds as a "sunshine industry" and its strong economic potential resounding through their bulging pockets and improved quality of life.
Jeffrey Pactoran, Executive Director of the Philippine Development Assistance Programme, Inc. (PDAP) however, pointed this could not be so, since the estimated 70 and 35 thousand families presently living in Sitangkai and Sibutu respectively; are all livelihood-dependent to the "poor" seaweed industry.
It is in the area of production volume and quality that farmers have control of while the enhancement of cultivars, technology, environment and marketing lies in the efforts and support of the consortium.
Today, the Philippines is on top of the seaweed industry world wide in terms of production and supply but this may not be for long says Pactoran. Indonesia is tailing second but may overtake the position sooner than we may realize if the development imperatives mentioned are not taken seriously as strategic options for the Philippines to get the prime income from the global market for the benefits of the seaweeds farmers back home, especially in Sitangkai-Sibutu area.
The forum was recently held to promote, Sitangkai: treasures from the sea and at the same time to solicit support from funding donors to further the development of the seaweeds industry, to alleviate the poverty situation of the fisher folks and the country as well. (PIA9-zc) [top]