Halal food processing

Mindanao can kiss its hope for a Brunei-funded halal food processing venture here goodbye. This after our ASEAN neighbor has decided to develop a new deep water port with export processing facilities for halal food.

Brunei has just awarded the development of Pulau Muara Besar, an island off the coast of the eastern tip of the oil-rich sultanate, to companies from Singapore and the Philippines.

The plans of the Department of Agriculture to attract funds from Brunei for the development of halal food processing plants in Mindanao have therefore been overtaken by Brunei’s own development initiative.

The DA has offered Mindanao as the site for a regional halal food processing facility which could supply halal food to Muslims in southeast Asia as well as to the Middle East.

I also wrote a letter two years ago to Brunei offering Davao City as possible site for the halal food processing center.

This would no longer be possible with the development of Pulau Muara Besar, a 995-hectare island in Brunei Bay, into a new container port with export processing zone for halal food and other manufacturing facilities. Brunei is undertaking this project to help diversify its industrial growth and lessen its dependence on oil and gas.

The project would be developed by the Surbana Consortium from Singapore and its port operations to be managed by the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. of the Philippines. Both won in the international tender or bidding.

The Manila-based ICTSI operates 16 international ports in 11 countries.

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Queensland: SP no, Mayor yes

Mayor Rody Duterte appeared jolly last night as he met members of the City Council for a consultation. Tagging along with the mayor were members of the local media. So, much of what we discussed at the Grand Men Seng Hotel from 9 p.m. to midnight would surely be in the news in the coming days.

Here is a quick view.

The mayor started by notifying the councilors that he received a letter from the Philippine Reclamation Authority on the controversial Queensland reclamation along Times Beach, part of which is a city government reservation. He told us that the City Legal Office has just referred the matter to the City Council. And this was the reason he called for the meeting.

He explained in no uncertain terms his personal position on the issue: “no objection” to the Queensland application with PRA. He emphasized, however, the need to set aside as another matter the issue on Queensland’s encroachment on the city government’s reservation.

The mayor’s stand is contrary to the position of most members of the City Council, including Vice Mayor Sara Duterte, who are not keen to grant the Queensland’s bid. For many and various reasons.

A second public hearing on this issue is set next week. It would indeed be very interesting how this new development would play into the final verdict of the City Council.

The other issues taken up by the mayor were as serious yet he was able to elicit a number of good laughs from us with his no-holds-barred remarks. Sorry folks, most of these are unprintable.

On the peace and order – he affirms his support for a political settlement with the MILF; and that the city is not threatened by the conflict in central Mindanao;

On the crash of the C-130 Philippine Air Force cargo plane off the Davao Gulf – it was an accident likely caused by the bad weather Monday night;

On city government projects – the need to establish bus terminals outside the city center, installation of CCTV cameras in major city streets; and privatization of the city-owned slaugther house;

And a final poser on what to do with the offer of a state bank for a new credit line to the city government of P3 billion.

7:26 a.m.

Balkanization of Mindanao

I am not a war monger and not about to fan one.

Yet, the government’s deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to seek peace is ironically causing the drum beatings for war.

War is coming.

Military, MILF rebels trade mortar fires in North Cotabato.

AFP prepared for untoward incidents in the south.

That’s what this unpopular government reaped for sowing the seeds of secrecy. In keeping major stakeholders in Mindanao out of the loop on the peace negotiations, the government has no one to blame but itself.

It created for all of us a huge problem in solving another. I refer to the long feared Balkanization of Mindanao as the indigenous peoples of Mindanao want no part in the Bangsamoro deal. That’s in addition to the opposition already expressed by a number of local governments. Balkanization refers to the division of a territory into often hostile units.

Will the government appease the lumads too with their own juridical entity in their ancestral lands? From where I sit and understanding fairness, the lumads have actually the prior rights to ancestral domains in Mindanao as its pioneer inhabitants.

6:37 a.m.

Dark clouds over Mindanao

No, this is not about the bad weather. Yet the disturbance is as compelling.

The dark clouds hovering in Mindanao is ironically about peace.

The agreement on the contentious ancestral domain issue between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) set to be signed in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow is causing serious concerns in several key areas of the island, notably in North Cotabato, Iligan and Zamboanga.

The inclusion of parts of their territory – without prior consultation – is among the gusty winds heaping up various protests. The other stormy blows are the continuing armed clashes in certain areas of North Cotabato and Maguindanao, and attempts to move the elections in the Muslim autonomous region scheduled for next week.

The recent armed attacks appears to have three-sided aims. One, to expand MILF controlled territory, two, to disrupt the elections, and three, to force the hand of both parties to sign or not to sign the pact.

I favor the peace agreement yet I worry how these new developments are unfolding.

For instance, we have seen how voters rejected the inclusion of many territories in the previous peace accords. I see the futility of including them again in this new agreement. Both panels are raising false hopes in this attempt to expand the areas to be covered under the envisioned Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. I am certain that this would be voted down in a plebiscite.

In the case of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberal Front (MNLF), attempts were likewise made to include, for example, Davao del Sur under the autonomous region and Davao City under the Special Zone of Peace and Development in Southern Philippines. The former was rejected by the people of Davao del Sur in a plebiscite; the latter rejected by the government panel in the final negotiations.

I was in Jakarta to represent Mayor Rody Duterte in the final rounds of the 1996 peace talks and I witnessed the discussions on the inclusion of Davao City in the SZOPAD. The government panel stuck firm on its position that Davao City was not among the areas covered in the Tripoli Agreement, which was the basis of the GRP-MNLF pact.

Well, even if Davao City were included, it would have seen defeat in the plebiscite.

The government should consider seriously the objections being raised by local officials in North Cotabato, Iligan and Zamboanga. Otherwise, it would fan the fire of protests that can lead to more “unpeace” in Mindanao. The peace agreement should be an instrument not just to appease certain sectors, it should bring genuine understanding and cooperation among all the stakeholders in Mindanao.

5:34 a.m.

Update – The Supreme Court issued a stop order for the signing  of the MOA on ancestral domain during its en banc meeting yesterday afternoon. – 6:40 a.m. August 5

Back online 4

I’m up early this morning to prepare for another busy day.

I will speak at the Davao Christian Leadership Breakfast Forum at 7 a.m. at the Grand Men Seng Hotel. This would be my sixth appearance at this fellowship attended by priests, pastors, laypeople and their guests.

I will discuss current issues confronting our consumers from food shortages, high prices, product standards and consumer rights.

After this forum, I will be off to Felis Beach Resort for the Mindanao Island Consultation for the upcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development which will be held in Manila in October. This regional consultation will be attended by civil society groups, while the global forum would be attended by UN member countries.

I would be wearing two hats in this meeting. First, to represent Mayor Rody Duterte during the opening rites, and Second, to participate as the official representative of Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation where I currently sit as Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Results of this island-wide consultation will be presented during the Manila global forum.

Yesterday, the City Council held a special session to discuss the monetization of part of the city’s Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) in 2001 and 2003. Due to the reenacted budgets of the national government during these two years, the city has a differential amounting to P142 million.

I presided the debates of the City Council on how best to get this sum. The national government is offering us two ways:

Option 1 is to get this money by seven installments starting May 2009 to May 2015; or

Option 2 is to get the P142 million now at a discounted rate of just 70 percent.

But during the discussion, we looked at another option – borrow money from Land Bank against this unreleased IRA share. That way, we get the whole amount and pay the interests from our regular IRA.

For lack of time, we decided in postponing the decision until the July 1 Regular Session. But, offhand, many of our colleagues are favoring the third option.

What do you think?

3:43 a.m.

Update – I added an online poll on my right sidebar – A P142 Million Question. Please vote!

5:49 a.m.

Back online 3

The 3rd Mindanao Food Processing and Packaging Technology Expo opened yesterday at the Central Bank.

I represented Mayor Rody Duterte at the ribbon-cutting which was star-studded. The guests include action star Senator Bong Revilla who also tagged along his fellow actor Philip Salvador.

(Rene B. Lumawag/Sunstar Davao June 19)

Also present were Doc Edmund Dantes who represented Rep. Anton Lagdameo, Sim Marfori of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce & Industry, local tuna king Doming Ang of Philexport, former DATA head Baby Montemayor, and a gang of regional directors of national government agencies.

The exhibit features the latest technology on food processing and packaging, food products and services. There are also plenty of free seminars that will run up to Saturday.

Kudos to Joel Pascual of Premier Events Plus Group for holding this trade fair in the city. Last year, on site sales topped P50 million. We are certain that this would be surpassed this year.

Indication? Well, even the lobby of the Central Bank, which was used in the past for the opening rites, was now filled with exhibitor booths.

Here’s how Sunstar reported on my brief remarks.

Incidentally, seated beside Senator Revilla, I revealed to him that my father hails from Cavite. He inquired from what part and I told him from Amadeo. Seven kilometers from Tagaytay, this town is tagged as the coffee capital of the country.

Revilla served as Vice Governor and Governor of the province before taking over the post of his father in the Senate.

He is being considered as a potential vice presidential bet for the administration in 2010. After the opening ceremony, he headed to the first regional Lakas-Kampi merger conference at Apo View Hotel where the Malacanang occupant made certain that the administration would win in the next national elections.

That I doubt very much.

5:25 a.m.

Defiant diplomat

The ink on the most recent US travel warning to the country’s troubled south had hardly dried up when no less than its top official here defied it.

Ambassador Kristie Kenney went last weekend into the “lion’s den.” Thus, she became the first US top official to ever visit Moro separatists at its stronghold in Shariff Kabunsuan in Mindanao.

The visit was “private” yet the diplomat urged leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, blamed for many violent incidents in the south, to resume peace talks with the Manila government.

Her visit proves that it is safe to travel to even the most “feared areas” in the Moro heartland.

I say those officials at the US State Department issuing travel advisories should go back to their drawing boards. Their envoy here is one of the frequent travelers to Mindanao.

Incidentally, this Indonesian consul feels safer in Davao and Mindanao than in Jakarta, Los Angeles or New York.