BASILAN PROVINCE – Once dubbed as the saving grace of agriculture in Basilan Province, the rubber industry is in the brink of collapse amid the burgeoning problems faced by the rubber farmers belonging to the Agrarian Reform Cooperatives in this island province.
The beleaguered twelve (12) rubber-based cooperatives and about four (4) thousand small rubber growers are seeking financial and technical interventions from the national government to salvage the dying industry in the region.
Earlier, Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Abdulghani ‘Gerry’ A. Salapuddin urged the government to save and rescue the rubber industry in Basilan and proposed rehabilitation of the existing rubber processing plants of Sta. Clara Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative (SCARBIDC) in Lamitan City, and Mahatalang Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MARBEMPCO) in Mahatalang, Sumisip, Basilan Province, which would cost about 48 million pesos.
Salapuddin added that there is a need for the establishment of a modern rubber processing facility in the area covered by the Lamitan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (LARBECO) in Lamitan City, and another plant should also be put up in the area covered by the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Integrated Development Cooperative (TARBIDC) in Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan Province. He also disclosed that these two modern rubber processing plants will cost about 60 million pesos.
Earlier this month, Salapuddin, together with SPDA Special Envoy for Trade and Investment Datu Farid Adnan Ibrahim, accompanied by Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Hadji Suwaib Ismael, and Immigration Officer Ibrahim Lim, conducted an ocular inspection to many of the agrarian rubber plantations in Basilan. The said visit culminated with a consultative meeting among the leaders and representatives of the different Agrarian Reform Cooperatives in the province.
During the said consultative meeting, SPDA Administrator Salapuddin had unearthed alarming problems that plagued the rubber farmers for several years now as he tried to assess the farmers’ problems, concerns and probable interventions to alleviate their present plight.
Salapuddin identified the leading issues that hound the farmers in Basilan, namely: low rubber production due to inadequate fertilizers and senile trees; lack of capital to buy farm inputs such as chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides; poor managerial capacity of ARBOs which resulted to poor business planning; no value added to most of the rubber products due to lack of pre and post harvest facilities as there is only a very limited capacity of the rubber processing plant that would cater to the entire rubber production in Basilan which consequently yield a very low income among the rubber growers.
He also added issues on the substandard rubber cups; poor quality of rubber lumps due to the conventional coagulation dugged on the ground which resulted to Earth dirt and impurities; inadequate credit support for rubber growers in which most of them practice “forward sales” scheme resulting to perennial indebtedness; and the dilapidated portion of plantation roads which resulted to high transportation costs.
With these issues at hand, SPDA Administrator Salapuddin had requested the DAR-ARMM Provincial Office in Basilan to submit to his office within the week a comprehensive report on the rubber industry situation in Basilan as basis for his recommendations to the office of the President.
Salapuddin opined that the concerned agencies and financial institutions of the government can be directed by the President to take favourable action to save and rescue the rubber industry in Basilan province. One of the possible sources of funding which could be tapped to rescue the rubber industry in Basilan is the Agri-Agra Fund of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Salapuddin said.
Once rescued from the morass of mismanagement and indebtedness, the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) with the help of its Special Envoy Datu Farid A. Ibrahim, intends to bring in foreign investors to put up huge and modern rubber processing plants, Salapuddin said.
Salapuddin further said that once high quality processed rubber products shall have been produced, the manufacture of tires and various by-products of rubber for local and foreign markets would follow. In this way, Salapuddin continued, the rubber industry would resuscitate and will command higher prices and good steady income for the rubber producers in the country.