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Buoyed by improving trade and investment climate, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) boost partnership on promoting the development of ecozones across the island-region.

The two agencies met this week to forge way forward steps for Mindanao's potential agri-ecozone areas, following the recent signing by Preaident Duterte of Administrative Order 18, which seeks to accelerate rural progress through robust development of special economic zones in the countryside.

As investment promotion agencies, MinDA and PEZA signed a memorandum of agreement in 2017 for the establishment of agri-economic and special ecozones in Mindanao.

According to MinDA OIC Chairman Nathaniel Dalumpines, the AO now provides Mindanao a great opportunity to proactively shepherd ecozone development outside growth centers, propel sustainable economic activities, generate more jobs, and increase agricultural and rural enterprise productivity, thereby optimizing export potentials.

“Since the forging of partnership between MinDA and PEZA and MinDA Board’s endorsement of the proposed establishment of agro-economic zones last year, we have already made several coordination efforts to ensure involvement of the concerned agencies in this initiative,” Dalumpines said.

MinDA recently convened the newly created Mindanao Development Corridor - Joint Planning and Programming / Technical Working Group (MinDC-JPP/TWG) on agro-economic zones composed of Regional Economic Zone Authority (REZA) and Regional Planning and Development Office (RPDO) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Mindanao regional offices.

The group has already agreed on a criteria for prioritization of economic zone proposals in Mindanao, including poverty incidence in the proposed ecozone location, proximity to port of entry, and availability of labor pool.

Initial economic zones locations are Agusan del Sur, Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay. The business cases for Sulu, Zamboanga del Norte (Triple-SB), Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Davao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, and Agusan del Norte are also currently underway.

Through its MinDC program, MinDA aims for a seamless physical integration and strong economic cooperation of all. The JPP is a mechanism to ensure an inter-agency support and interventions for the key programs and projects in Mindanao. The establishment of agro-economic zones is one of the priority projects under the MinDC.

With the establishment of these agro-ecozones, Dalumpines hopes that “growth will be fairly spread to the peripheries and the fruits of prosperity will be equitably enjoyed by all as the key measures to a peaceful and progressive Mindanao.”

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