San Miguel Corp. Eyes Invesments In Power, Feed Mills, Poultry In Sulu

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - Front Page - (By Manny Piñol. The author is the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.)

FOOD AND BEVERAGE giant San Miguel Corporation will establish a 20-megawatt power plant, a medium-size feed mill facility using the corn and cassava produced by Tausogs and engage the people of Sulu in the contract growing of poultry which could be exported to nearby Sabah.

SMC chief Ramon Ang told me during a meeting Wednesday morning that while these investments may be considered risky by other entrepreneurs, he considers these interventions important contributions to the peace efforts of President Rody Duterte.

"Yes, we are willing to take the risks just so we could help President Duterte achieve peace and stability in the Southern Philippines, especially in the troubled island of Sulu," the SMC Chairman said in a meeting arranged by Duterte supporter Rolly Macasaet in the corporate board room of San Miguel in Mandaluyong.

My meeting with Ang, one of the country's most powerful and influential business executives, came shortly after I arrived from Zamboanga City and a day after I made a quick visit to Jolo, Sulu on orders of President Rody Duterte.

On Thursday last week, while I was on a trip to Borongan, Eastern Samar, President Duterte asked me by phone to proceed to Jolo, Sulu to assess the situation in the province and determine what could be done to improve the conditions of the people in the troubled province made notorious by the kidnap group Abu Sayyaf.

Sharing with him what I submitted to the President in my report, I pointed out that the people of Sulu are in desperate state.

1. The power supply is very expensive because the island's electric cooperative SULECO uses diesel generator. In fact, a cold storage could not be operated because the power cost is greater than the earnings of preserving the fish catch in the cold storage;

2. The province's public school buildings are in a sad state of disrepair and school children are cramped in dark and small classrooms with loose ceilings posing constant danger;

3. There is no air transport to the capital city of Jolo from Zamboanga City and the only means of transportation are slow moving boats or only one fast craft ;

4. The hospitals are illequipped to handle major medical concerns with only the Army Station Hospital and the Level 1 Sulu Provincial Hospital equipped to undertake surgeries;

5. Agriculture is in a doldrums with people producing only fruits, copra, seaweeds, cassava, white corn and fish; rice requirement is supplied by smugglers and no efforts have been made to develop rice farming;

6. The province does not even produce enough chicken for its people's consumption and the broiler chicken supply comes from as far as Davao City, General Santos City, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga City.

Hearing these, the SMC top honcho committed to deliver the following:

1. A power plant capable of producing 20 megawatts for the main island (for the small islands, I will ask the Dept. of Energy to establish solar farms);

2. A fish ball factory to make use of the abundant fish catch of Tausug and Samal (Badjao) fishermen;

3. A feed mill which would absorb the corn and cassava production of the Tausug farmers ( the DA will supply the tractors and equipment, planting materials and seeds, fertilisers and technology for corn and cassava farming);

4. A poultry contractgrowing scheme where Tausug farmers will be trained in raising broiler chicken which will be bought and processed by San Miguel Corp. into readyto-eat roasted chicken.

The SMC chief said he would like to implement the projects before the end of the year.

As Secretary of Agriculture, I assured Ramon Ang that the needed support equipment, services and training will be delivered immediately.

I met with top officials of the Agricultural Training Institute, a bureau under the DA, and directed them to work out an arrangement with the Hadji Butu School of Arts and Trade for a partnership.

The ATI will help in the renovation of the dilapidated school buildings of HBSAT and transform the school into a training ground for tractor operators and mechanics and also for farmers and fishermen.

The first step in transforming the troubled province of Sulu into a land of peace and opportunities has been made.

It only needs a President who is determine to change the lives of the Filipinos for the better at all cost and by all means.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol gestures as he talks with Ramon Ang, of San Miguel Corporation in this photo from his Facebook page.

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