Malaya | 27 April 2011
BY IRMA ISIP
The South Koreans are looking for as much as 100,000 in idle agricultural land that can be planted to crops for domestic consumption and for export.
Development of idle land under the "multi-industrial cluster program" was a brainchild of former South Korean Ambassador Choi Joong-Jyung.
The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has since adopted the program and is willing to bankroll projects that will eventually involve South Korean investors willing to tie up with Filipino partners.
An inter-agency task force is now working on the identification of both private and government land that may be tapped for the program and projects appropriate to the sites, according to Trade Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio.
The task force includes representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Board of Investments in coordination with Senators Edgardo Angara and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
"The idea is to review all these idle agricultural lands, government lands and how they can be turned productive with the help and support of South Korea. The aim is to increase productivity and provide jobs, especially in remote areas," Panlilio said.
Initial targets are abandoned farms and neglected land reform communities.
Whenever projects involve private land, proponents will lease the property from the owners.
Crops, fish and livestock will be raised in these lands to address food security and reduce poverty. The main crops will include rice, corn and sugar.
Panlilio said eventually products for export will be introduced.
He said the task force is looking initially at 3,000 hectares in Isabela, Quirino, Aurora and Misamis Oriental.
According to Panlilio, the entry of South Korean investors in the ventures will facilitate official development assistance.
"We have to develop a baseline and come up with a success story," he said.
For an economic-size sugar plantation, for example, Panlilio estimates that P270 million is needed to jumpstart the project.
"We are completing studies so we can start inviting and start a promotional campaign," he said.
Wide-scale Korean involvement in developing idle land is a take-off from Panlilio’s proposal to rehabilitate sugar farms in lahar-damaged parts of Central Luzon.
At least 10,000 hectares in Pampanga, Tarlac, Bataan and Zambales have been identified as capable of supporting a sugar mill in Central Luzon.
Panlilio has invited Malaysian, Korean and Chinese investors to participate in the sugar projects.
Discussions are ongoing with China’s Wahaha Group and Korea’s Lotte Group.