MEDA bill critical to banana industry growth, says PBGEA
Davao City (16 January) -- Citing the pressing need of the country for food security and a much stronger and stable agro-industrial base in order to cope with the global economic challenges, the country's banana growers and exporters support the call for the immediate enactment of the proposed Mindanao Economic Development Authority (MEDA) Bill into law.
"It is a measure long overdue," said Stephen Antig, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), adding that the Philippine banana industry lauded Congress and Senate for passing the bill last year.
The Congress approved House Bill 6958, otherwise known as the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Bill, which provides for the restructuring of the existing Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) into the Mindanao Economic Development Authority (MEDA) so as to further accelerate efforts to promote peace and development in Mindanao.
Senate Bill 3496, its counterpart bill, was also passed by the Philippine Senate on 14 December 2009.
Antig said that the reality of climatic changes has also made imperative the development of Mindanao particularly as the country's main food basket.
"The need to facilitate private and public sector investments to provide for much-needed agro-industries, technical support services, educational facilities, security programs and the massive infrastructure requirements of our island-region necessitates a permanent integrative structure such as the Mindanao Economic Development Authority," he said.
As an agency coordinating for Mindanao's integrated socio-economic development, he said MEDA is needed to pro-actively accelerate the growth of the banana industry in the island-region through improvement of roads leading to the markets, policy advocacy and provision of facilities such as cold chain facility.
Covering a total productive area of 61,748 hectares mostly located in Mindanao, the Philippine banana industry is one of the world's top banana suppliers with Japan, Iran and Gulf as major foreign markets.
In 2009, the Philippine banana industry's estimated value of banana export reached P32 billion.
Antig also said that it is to the best interest of the country that the MEDA be implemented soonest so as to encourage private sector participation in realizing Mindanao's vast potential to become an East Asian economic resource.
Renante Bangoy, chair of the save Our Sagingan Movement, a coalition of some 30,000 small landowners and agrarian reform beneficiaries in the region who are into banana farming, expressed optimism that the creation of MEDA will provide the national government with an "on-the-ground" mechanism for policy-making to be able to address Mindanao's immediate concerns.
"The ambivalence and indecision of armchair executives of some national line agencies who cannot make heads or tails of our problems are among the stumbling blocks to our growth," said Bangoy.
Bangoy said that stakeholders of the industry also see Mindanao rapidly transformed not only as the country's agro-industrial base but also as the education and major trading hub of BIMP-EAGA with the creation of MEDA. (MEDA) [top]