Investments in agro-based economic zones have reached P20.4 billion, providing employment to 41,205 Filipinos, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) reported.
PEZA Deputy Director General Tereso Panga said these investments came from 22 agro-industrial parks and 50 agro-based locators in the country. In 2020, these investors generated $1-billion worth of exports.
With this encouraging performance in agri-ecozones, Panga said PEZA is promoting new types of ecozones to drive agri-innovation and the growth of agro-industrial clusters. These are agro-forestry, aquamarine, halal hubs & food processing, and knowledge, innovation, science and technology park (KIST).
PEZA is also collaborating with key government agencies to accelerate countryside development and inclusive growth.
Likewise, the agency that administers tax incentives to locators, is also pushing for programs on Eco-Industrial Parks and Agriculture Technologies to utilize idle lands for large scale plantations and commercial production.
In addition, PEZA said there must be developments for leading traditional crops for export which are mostly produced in the ecozones: coconut, banana, mango, pineapple, and coffee.
Panga further said that PEZA are attracting new locator investors into pioneering agro products, diversified crops, food processing and logistics hubs, agri R&D and innovation, and agri 4.0 technologies, which will facilitate technology transfer, capability building and increased income for the farmers, and the integration of local industries in the ecozone value chain.
According to PEZA Director General Charito Plaza, “PEZA is in a unique position to push for ecozones as economic drivers as we are the only agency in government with the mandate to develop ecozones nationwide.” Among the enabling laws and policies that support the ecozone program include AO 18, Balik Probinsya Program, Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, IPP/SIPP, and CREATE.
As such, she said, the way to go is for PEZA to create more ecozones that will serve as agro-industrial growth corridors and agri-innovation hubs. Together with this strategy are the adoption of iOT applications and precision agriculture technologies, upgrading of farmers’ skills and productivity, and specialization in export-oriented commodities where the Philippines can attain comparative advantage in and provide for the needed economies of scale as well as infrastructure support in order for the ecozone investors to be viable with their operations in the country and as they compete in the global trade.
“We can do something to reverse the sorry state of the agri sector and to increase instead the agri output. If only we can get our acts together towards a common goal, it is not impossible to attract more investments in agriculture, modernize our agri systems following the agri 4.0 technology, and double the share of agri contribution in the country’s gross domestic product,” Plaza said.