P1.55-B KIST Park, agro-processing zones rise in Bicol

Catanduanes State University (CatSU) is establishing two economic zones -- Knowledge, Innovation, Science and Technology (KIST) Park and Agro-Industrial Processing Zone – the first of its kind in the Bicol region with investments of P1.55 billion, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) announced.

Tereso O. Panga, PEZA Director General, said following the groundbreaking Friday, May 26, of the CatSU KIST and agro-processing ecozones, which PEZA registered with tax and fiscal incentives. The guidelines for the establishment of KIST Park was jointly formulated by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and PEZA.

Panga noted that the Bicol region already hosts seven ecozones, including CatSUs’ projects, and 11 export-oriented locators, mostly in the manufacturing and BPO industries, employing almost 9,000 workers. These projects have combined investments of P18.960 billion and generated $1.323 billion worth of exports from 1995 to March this year.

“In just over a year, the dream of converting some idle lands of CatSU into a prime KIST and Agro-Industrial Economic Zone is now a reality. A reality that will potentially change the future of the whole Province of Catanduanes and benefit its 263,000 residents,” Panga said.

He said that this milestone for CatSU was also ably assisted by the Catanduanes local government units, particularly Gov. Joseph Cua, and Cong. Eulogio Rodriguez, host LGUs of Virac and Panganiban, and other partner agencies that support the implementation of ecozone program at the regional/municipal levels.

Panga noted that the CatSU ecozones conform to green, inclusive and sustainable development. “CatSU is able to mobilize as well the cooperation of the farmers, NGOs and business chambers, scientists and researchers, and key players in the IT and agro-sector supply chains--thereby fostering synergies between academe and the industry,” he added.

Catanduanes happens to be the biggest contributor to the growth of the abaca industry among the abaca-producing regions. The Philippines supplies 87.5 percent of the world's requirement for abaca fibers, making the country the abaca capital of the world, he said.

In the case of CatSU, it is ranked no. 3 top performing schools in Region V. CatSU is also vying for green university ranking under the Green University Networks of the UNEP-UN environment program.

He further cited CatSU's green installations and facilities that subscribe to the principles of climate proofing and circular economy.  These include the 250kw hybrid solar-battery power generation facility complete with smart control room, which supplies 30 percent of its campus energy needs; an agri-4.0 designed greenhouse adopting 4 technology systems into aquaponic, hydroponic, deep water culture and drip irrigation that can produce lettuce, celery, cherry tomato and capsicum in a controlled environment; and a 400 cubic meter capacity rain collector to augment its water supply.

As a Bicolano and at the helm of PEZA, Panga said he takes particular interest at the prospects of seeing foreign companies locating in the two CatSU ecozones, job opportunities opening for graduates of CatSU so that they need not go to Manila; and, uplift the economic life of the people of Catanduanes through the ancillary and downstream effects of foreign direct investment and capital inflow.

“These are the same parameters that we adopt in PEZA as we promote the creation of more ecozones in rural and new growth areas to accelerate our countryside development,” said Panga.

For his part, Cong. Eulogio “Leo” R.  Rodriguez stated that, “The establishment of economic zones in the province will surely be the beginning, the starting step toward the great economic leap of the province of Catanduanes.” Moreover, Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua emphasized that, “By facilitating agro-processing and agro-business ventures within this zone, we empower locals to enhance their economic well-being.”

CatSU President Dr. Patrick Azanza also takes pride for Catanduanes and CatSU for responding to the call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to establish ecozones to attract strategic investments. “In fact, we are one, if not the first ecozone during the time of PBBM, that will be inaugurated and will be established,” he said.