Thursday, 26 November 2009
BY ISAGANI P. PALMA CORRESPONDENT
GENERAL SANTOS CITY: Arabian investors are infusing multimillion-dollar worth of investments in a 50-hectare agricultural land development in the town of Malungon in this city.
Tommy Ala, Department of Agriculture regional director for Central Mindanao, said the group of Mohamad Al Raighi, an Arabian sheik and chief executive officer of Middle East-based Tabuk Agricultural Development Co., visited the Kalumbarak Skyline Village in Malungon town with the intention of putting up a multimillion dollar worth investment in the proposed agricultural area.
Agriculture officials said the project would help support and sustain the country’s agricultural produce in typhoon-prone areas in Luzon.
“Our foreign visitors are interested to look into the potentials of Region 12, particularly its rice, corn, banana and pineapple plantations. They are now here in Mount Kalunbarak to explore and conduct actual site validation,” said Ala in an exclusive interview with The Manila Times.
The 10-vehicle convoy carrying the Arabian businessmen and local agriculture officials trooped to the village a thousand feet above sea level, which overlooks the scenic Mount Matutum in South Cotabato, General Santos City, Sarangani and parts of Davao del Sur.
The group conducted the on-land assessment survey following an aerial viewing of the project site in February.
Ala said the Department of Agriculture is now expecting a letter of intent from the foreign investors.
He said a group of technical people from the Middle East would be arriving by early next year to facilitate the implementation of the project.
Ala did not disclose the total amount of the investment “pending final arrangements,” but he assured that the project would boost the country’s food supply, which is constantly under threat because of the strong typhoons that hit Luzon and devastate agricultural lands.
“We have no exact figure yet but I am certain we would be able to determine it after receiving the letter of intent, which is expected to be forwarded to our office this week. But, definitely, we are talking here of a multimillion-dollar worth of project transaction and nothing less,” Ala said.
Elsie Sia, the local project counterpart and owner of Davao City-based Elsie Enterprises, said Raighi also plans to put up a fully equipped tourist hotel in Kalumbarak as he expects an influx of foreign visitors in the area once the project materializes.
Malungon town Vice Mayor Benjamin Guilley said Raighi is open to an agreement with the local government for the maintenance of the access road and security of project site.
Ala said Tabuk, the mother company of 11 other Arabian business firms, has chosen the southern part of the region because it is generally peaceful besides its strategic location.
He said the DA-12 priority program will concentrate on enhancing rice production to maintain its rank as the Number One rice-producing region in Mindanao. It is fifth in the entire country.Ala said Region 12 is also the top corn producer in Mindanao and third nationwide. It is first in coffee production, second in pineapple, second in rubber and fourth placer in banana production nationwide.