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MinDA featured in the January 10-16, 2020 issue of the US Asian Post . Story by Lydia Solis.

LOS ANGELES - Consul General Adelio Angelito S. Cruz appealed to the FilAm community to promote and patronize agricultural products from Mindanao on December 20, 2019, during the Town Hall Meeting at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles. He also promoted Philippine tourism in newly reopened Boracay, launching the Very Important Pinoy Tour 2020.

The consulate collaborated with PTIC Philippine Trade and Investment Center L.A. and arranged the visit of the MinDA Mindanao Development Authority from Dec. 17 to 29, 2019, led by Chairperson Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol.

MinDA Investment Promotion Chief Ernie Tomas talked about “farm tourism” being the 11th top business-generating future priority in the agriculture-rich souther Philippines island regions of Mindanao.

“Mindanao is the food basket of the Philippines,” he said. And, according to 2018 Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) numbers, the Nos. 3-4 exports were nickel and nickel products. Gold came in seventh and copper came in eighth, while petroleum oils and crude came in tenth.

The Philippines’ No. 1 country of export is Japan, followed by China and the United States, according to Tomas. It was surprising to see that the Philippines also exported to the Netherlands and is pioneering solar-powered irrigation systems and high-speed rail.

Tomas and MinDA International Relations Division Chief Jonathan Miral touted the future crop and livestock priorities for Mindanao in this order: Rubber, oil palm tree, cacao, coffee, coconuts, poultry and duck; bananas, seaweed, tuna, and sardines. The top 10 exports for 2018, according to the PSA, included bananas as the No. 1 export, coconuts and oil palm tree kernels coming in second, and fish, caviar and caviar substitutes coming in fifth.

Trade Commissioner Eric Elnar added that the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry is also pushing growth of mom-and-pop small family-run businesses through “Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan” (Work, Business, Livelihood) and the 7 Ms of exporting: Mindset, Mastery, Mentoring, Money, Machines, Market Access, Models of startup business

MinDA rep Miral added that the Philippines is working with American companies, such as Seafood City, to coordinate with suppliers in Mindanao. MinDA rep Tomas recalled a recent Dec. 16, 2019, deal with Scott Seeds of Houston, Texas for sorghum, a drought-resistant grass that can serve as better feed for Philippine poultry and pigs and other livestock.

All the officials from the consul general to the business representatives acknowledged the problems of high poverty, drug use, and lack of updated infrastructure.

“From the Marawi Siege (five-month battle between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant jihadist groups and Philippine government in 2017) to natural disasters, including a deadly Dec. 15, 2019, earthquake, we know that Mindanao needs our help,” ConGen Cruz said.

MinDA rep Tomas added that eight out of the ten poorest provinces in the Philippines are in Mindanao. That situation could be improved by the installment of economic zones and the Trans Mindanao Railway.

“This is why we are promoting the plan of ‘Peace, Productivity and Prosperity,’ in Mindanao,” Tomas stated, adding that the institution of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in January 2019, was a step toward peace.

Manny Piñol missed the Town Hall meeting.

“I’m sorry that I could not be with you today,” he said in a video message. “I had to leave early due to the 6.8 earthquake.” (The earthquake occurred three miles to the south-southeast of Magsaysay, in southernn Philippines.)

But Piñol did explain that MinDA intends to increase the region’s agricultural with the hope that it will generate job opportunities and increase the income of Mindanao farmers and fisherfolk.

“MinDA,” he concluded, “is of the view that said efforts will foster peace in Mindanao.”

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