Philippine House of Representatives Press Release | 27 January 2009
Writer: Gil Bugaoisan
Following his fruitful meeting with Saudi Arabia's The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdullaziz Al-Saud, House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles also met with the Saudi Minister of Agriculture H. E. Fahad Bin Abdulrahman Bin Suleiman Balghunaim to discuss new proposals potential partnerships between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on food security for both countries.
Speaker Nograles sought the Minister's assistance the development of a Saudi-Philippines Special Zone of Peace and Development that can provide new opportunities agricultural production and exports to the Middle East . This he said will jumpstart economic development for the people of Muslim Mindanao.
The Speaker noted that the people of Muslim Mindanao have very high regard to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a purveyor of peace and development, and as host to thousands of Overseas Filipino workers from the their area.
Minister Balghunaim said that the Saudi government is keenly interested in concrete cooperation between the Kingdom and the Philippines and their strong support for agriculture projects, specifically in grain production, aquamarine and livestock and in Halal processing plants. Saudi Arabia , he noted, recently adopted a policy of establishing partnership with agriculture business groups in other countries in order to fortify the Kingdom's sources of food reserves.
Speaker Nograles pushed for Saudi-Philippines partnership to develop some 26,000 hectares of government property in Central Mindanao into a major agri-industrial production and processing complex. With the help of the Saudi government and Saudi agribusiness investors, this will begin the economic development process for Muslim Mindanao and greatly help promote a sustainable peace in the island.
Muslim Mindanao House leaders, including Deputy Speaker Simeon Datumanong, and Representatives Nur Jaafar, Munir Arbison, Mujiv Hataman and Yusop Jikiri, who were part of the delegation, expressed their appreciation to Minister Balghunaim for the Saudi government's interest in creating this solid opportunity for growth and development for their people.
Speaker Nograles said that the island of Mindanao possesses the not only abundant natural resources and year-round agriculture-friendly soils and climate but also industrious workers that the Saudi's may have noted among the 1.2 million strong Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia .
Through the Minister, they extended their invitation to Saudi agricultural and fisheries businesspersons to come to Mindanao and collaborate with local investors in such areas as rice and corn, oil palm and rubber plantations, aquaculture, seaweeds production and processing.
The congressional delegation also expressed their strong support for the ongoing cooperative efforts undertaken by Philippine and Saudi agriculture ministries to study various options for productive partnerships between the two countries.
The House delegation were joined by Department and Energy Undersecretary Zamzamin Ampatuan and Southern Philippines Development Authority Administrator Sultan Yahya Jerry Tomawis, and Director-General Rodolfo Vicerra of the Congressional Planning and Budget Department.