November 22, 2016
A MALAYSIAN COMPANY is planning to invest an initial amount of $1 billion to build plants to process palm oil in Agusan del Sur, according to an official from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).
PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza said Alif Agro-Industrial, Inc. is looking for 128,000 hectares in Agusan del Sur which would be used as agricultural economic zones.
“$1 billion ang initial nila kasi (is their initial investment because) they’ll put up refinery plants to process the palm oil,” she told reporters on the sidelines of a Nov. 17 event.
Ms. Plaza said the land will be in ancestral domain areas, which is “good” for indigenous people who have been fighting for their rights.
“What we are doing now to accommodate the 128,000 hectares is we talked to the Department of Trade and Industry, and the local government and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. We are talking with the clans of these owners of these ancestral domains. They already signed a contract or a memorandum of understanding that these will be converted to special eco zones for the palm oil industry.”
Ms. Plaza noted the Philippines is currently importing around five million tons of cooking oil.
She said that they are currently studying the country’s imports with an emphasis on looking for possible crops that could be planted in the economic zones. This would contribute to minimizing the country’s overseas purchase of goods while boosting its export capacity.
Ms. Plaza, who took over the post after former PEZA Director-General Lilia B. De Lima retired earlier this year, is a former representative of Butuan.
PEZA is preparing to introduce changes in the way the government seeks investments, as it explores opening up economic zones for other sectors such as that of national defense.
Moreover, Ms. Plaza said PEZA is making a pivot towards attracting Middle Eastern investors that represent a lot of untapped potential.
This new focus, she said, is because PEZA has previously been occupied with seeking investments from Western and non-Muslim states, when in fact, the Middle East is “where the money is.” — Roy Stephen C. Canivel