DOST commends resilience, contribution to PH economy of Zamboanga del Norte MSMEs

Various micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Zamboanga del Norte were lauded by then Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña for powering through amid the Covid-19 pandemic and for their huge contribution to the economy, the agency said on Friday, July 1.

DOST Sec. Fortunato de la Peña chats with Laguerta Food Products proprietor Ardie Quiamjot while Regional Director Martin A. Wee and Provincial Director Nuhman M. Aljani check one of the equipment in the facility. (Photo courtesy of DOST-IX)

According to DOST-IX, Dela Peña made his visit in the province on July 17 and 18 wherein he was elated to see the MSMES that the agency was able to assist in improving their facilities, operations, and product quality.He, along with other members of DOST, visited four MSME proponents in the province under the agency’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP).

SETUP is DOST’s flagship program assisting MSMEs to adopt technological innovations to boost their operation and improve productivity. The program offers a package of interventions such as equipment upgrading, human resource development, technical consultancy services and laboratory analyses, among others. The enterprises visited included Laguerta Food Products in Katipunan; MDG Agri Aqua Enterprises and Celso Fish Production in Sibutad; and Balay ni SRB in Dipolog City.

Located in the Municipality of Katipunan, Laguerta Food Products was able to mechanize its operation through DOST’s assistance. According to DOST-IX, this calamansi processing firm was granted P999,936 to acquire semi-mechanized calamansi juice processing equipment and water purification system. Aside from equipment upgrading, the DOST also provided training on equipment operation and good manufacturing practices; technical consultancy on proper plant layout and compliance to FDA regulations; and laboratory analysis.

With the upgrading, the firm was able to increase their production by five times and was able to employ three more workers. They were also able to market their products in major supermarkets and grocery stores in the province.

“We are now producing around 50 cases per day and we are already looking at expanding outside the province like the cities of Dumaguete and Cebu,” co-proprietor Anita Quiamjot stated.

They also visited two SETUP adopters in Sibutad -- MDG Agri Aqua Enterprises and Celso Fish Production. The two firms were granted P1,349,587 each. The assistance paved the way for the firms to upgrade their bangus (milkfish) production business from using traditional bamboo cages to Norwegian-type cages.

The Norwegian-type cages are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic pipes. The structure can last up to 30 years with very minimal maintenance required. In contrast, the bamboo cages can only last up to a maximum of two years that require heavy maintenance. The upgraded cages can also accommodate a bigger volume – more than three times that using bamboo cages, from 15,000 to 50,000 fingerlings per cropping cycle.

“It requires investment at the start but in the long run the technology is very economical. We can save a lot of money,” Miguel Lopez, proprietor of MDG Agri Aqua Enterprises stated.

Lastly, Dela Peña visited the Dipolog City-based Balay ni SRB for their crab fattening business. The firm was granted P578,880 to acquire the innovative recirculating aquaculture system (RAS).

RAS employs “crab condo” with complete accessories and water recirculating system mimicking the natural habitat of crabs. The facility can accommodate 500 crabs at any given time. The crabs reared at RAS setup can triple its weight in just 15 days’ cycle – from an average of 300 grams to 900 grams. The facility is the first in the region.

Aside from visiting SETUP-assisted projects in the province, the Secretary also turned over a replica of the 3D -printed statue of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the Filipino Scientist, to the Museo ni Rizal Dapitan in Dapitan City. Furthermore, the team also visited the Philippine Science High School-Zamboanga Peninsula Regional Campus (PSHS-ZRC).