The Philippine Star | February 22, 2011
By Elisa Osorio
MANILA, Philippines - A local subsidiary of Saudi Arabian firm Abbar and Zainy has proposed turning a wide swathe of land in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao – including the site of the Maguindanao massacre – into a banana plantation.
Board of Investments (BOI) executive director Raul Angeles said Aztropex Inc. plans to spend P1.8 billion for the venture covering 1,500 hectares of land.
Angeles said the Middle East would be the export market for the bananas. The investment necessary for a banana plantation is P1.2 million per hectare.
Angeles said the Maguindanao portion of the project covers only 50 hectares. Asked if the project would encroach on the Maguindanao massacre site, Angeles said the place where the bodies were buried would be cordoned off.
“They agreed to preserve the massacre site. They will build a memorial there,” Angeles said. Aztropex will only lease the land because foreigners are not allowed to own land in the Philippines.
Earlier, Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGE), said the industry suffered a slump last year due to an extended dry spell as well as the sudden shrinking of its Middle East market as a result of the US embargo on Iran.
The Regional Development Council and industry stakeholders have committed to tap new markets for local produce as well as work for counter-trade arrangements with Iran.
“We are looking at the possibility of a $1 billion per annum Philippine export banana industry,” Antig said.