THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) said 12 million hectares of government land needs to be tapped for agro-industrial and aquamarine economic zones (ecozones), to address the looming food crisis.
PEZA Director-General Charito B. Plaza said in a statement on Thursday that “For years, we have been hearing of plans for production and food sufficiency, yet we continue to be an import and consumption-dependent economy, despite the millions of hectares of idle land.”
“Our focus (must be) to utilize responsibly our very fertile land and rich natural resources towards self-reliance (and a) self-sustaining and resource-generating economy,” Ms. Plaza added.
Ms. Plaza said President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s decision to take control of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has opened up an opportunity for PEZA to explore the expansion of production via the ecozone route, with corresponding incentives to locators.
“PEZA will contribute in our own way… by transforming public land into viable agro-industrial and aquamarine (production centers to achieve) food security,” she added.
On May 31, the PEZA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to create more ecozones in the countryside. The ecozone development program will be piloted in the Caraga region.
“Under the MoU, PEZA and DENR have agreed to pursue the establishment of special ecozones in potential areas within the jurisdiction of the DENR that are suitable for development as agro-industrial, agro-forestry, mineral processing, and eco-tourism (zones). We hope to truly implement these partnerships in the coming years under the administration of President-elect Marcos,” Ms. Plaza said.
“We aim to restore the once major industry of wood and bring order to the utilization of the raw minerals processed into many other products in Caraga, which has (major) timberland and mining land,” she added.
PEZA and DENR identified seven sites in the region viable for ecozone development. Four of the proposed economic zones will be in Agusan del Norte, while one site each has been nominated for Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur.
“Once proclaimed, these will be in addition to the 23 operating agro-industrial ecozones in PEZA, four of which are located in Luzon, five in Visayas, and 13 in Mindanao,” PEZA said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave