By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – A P100-million worth abaca fiber processing plant will be established soon in Balabagan, Lanao del Sur to boost the production of residents farmers of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) officialdom announced Friday.
The Bangsamoro Bureau of Public Information (BPI) said the BARMM’s Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) has approved the initial P100-million investment of the Hong Kong Feng Seng Heritage Philippines Inc. (HK FSH) in Barangay Calilangan in the Balabagan coastal town.
The plant will initially employ 107 workers, starting with production capacity of 12,000-metric tons of abaca fiber at 10-percent increase annually, the BPI said.
“All products from the facility will be exported to China for pulp making through Bloomfield (Xingtai) Specialty Paper Co. Ltd. Bloomfield supplies pulps to paper mills in China and the world,” it said in a statement.
Manolito Hofer, HK FHS chief executive officer and a scion of the Hofer clan in southern Lanao, registered the business venture as “part of his personal advocacy of helping end armed conflicts and push for development in his home province, Lanao del Sur,” the Office of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim said.
“I am optimistic that with the start of this facility, more opportunities will come to BARMM. HK FHS plans to establish additional 10,000 hectares of abaca plantations through contract growing all over the region including Zamboaga Peninsula to generate around 20,000 or more workers in the next few years,” Hofer was quoted as sayng.
HK FSH will also set up an abaca tissue culture laboratory and nursery to supply its plantation needs. The nursery is initially targeting 2,000 plantlets for 1,000 hectares in its first year of operations and increase it year-by-year, the BPI said.
RBOI Chairman Atty. Ishak Mastura said “as the year closes, BARMM has shown the benefits of peace in terms of more investors willing to pour capitals in the region, especially since the Bangsamoro Organic Law just began its implementation this year of Chief Minster Ebrahim’s stride for moral and active governance.”
The Bangsamoro region has developed an abaca industry roadmap focused on Lanao del Sur to maximize potentials of the area, empower the labor force through good agricultural practices and alleviate the lives of the people of the lake, according to Abuamri Taddik, BARMM’s minister of Trade, Investments and Tourism.
The abaca is known worldwide as the “Manila Hemp,” with the Philippines as a top producer and exporter. The abaca fiber is considered the strongest of natural fibers. It is three times stronger than cotton.
As per Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority’s (PhilFIDA ) 2018 data, ARMM is among the top five abaca producing regions in the Philippines contributing 10.07% of the country’s total abaca production.
Lanao del Sur is second to Sulu in abaca production in BARMM and ranks eight in the country. The province has an approximate 5,621 hectares of abaca plantations with an average yield of 0.69 metric tons per hectare of abaca production.
The registration of HK FSH will allow the company to avail of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives from the government such as income tax holidays (ITH), duty free importation on capital equipment and other applicable incentives upon start of the project’s commercial operation.