Sunday, August 2, 2009

Soccsksargen grows slower in ’08, down 4.6% from 2007’s 6.7%

Written by Jerry Adlaw / Correspondent
Thursday, 30 July 2009 22:51, Business Mirror
Drilling machine of SMI in the mountains of Tampakan, South Cotabato.

THE economy of Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos) region grew at a slower pace by registering a 4.6-percent growth in 2008 from its robust performance of 6.7 percent in 2007. The deceleration was caused by slowdown in all three of its major sectors.

The agriculture, forestry and fisheries (AFF), the biggest contributor to the regional economy which accounted for 42.9 percent of the region’s total output, decelerated to 6.7 percent from a remarkable growth of 7.8 percent recorded in 2007.

The favorable performances turned in by fishery and livestock were not able to cushion the lower growths posted by corn, coconut, banana, pineapple, rubber and other crops, as well as poultry.

Sugarcane production posted a remarkable growth, attributed to the higher demand for muscovado sugar in the local and international markets.

Sugarcane is also being eyed as an alternative source of biofuels. The industry sector, which accounted for about 31 percent of the region’s total economic output, posted a sluggish performance as it slowed down from a 6.9-percent growth in 2007 to a modest 3.5-percent growth in 2008. All industry subsectors experienced a slowdown.

Manufacturing, which accounted for the biggest share of the total industry output, dropped from 5.4 percent to 3.4 percent, mining and quarrying from 9.1 percent to 3.9 percent, and construction from 18.1 percent to 5.8 percent.

Electricity and water contracted to negative 1.5 percent in 2008 from a 4.1-percent growth in 2007 due to reduced power generation of the Mt. Apo geothermal plants located in Cotabato province.

Services, which comprised 26.1 percent of the region’s economy, slipped down to 2.7 percent in 2008 from 4.7 percent in 2007 as all subsector outputs declined except for ownership of dwellings and real estate (ODRE). Government services grew by only 0.6 percent in 2008 from 5.7 percent in 2007; finance, 3.5 percent from 5.8 percent; and private services, 4.1 percent from 5.3 percent.

Odre more than doubled its growth as it went up from 1.2 percent to 2.8 percent, and government services substantially grew from 3.6 percent in 2007 to 6.9 percent in 2008.

AFF posted the biggest contribution to the GRDP growth at 2.8 percentage points followed by the industry sector at 1.1 percentage point and the services sector at 0.7 percentage point.

Real figures per capita GRDP increased by 2.3 percent from P12,499 in 2007 to P12,792 in 2008.

A region’s gross domestic product, or GRDP, is defined as the market value of all final goods and services produced within a region in a given period. It is considered as the single most-important indicator of economic performance. The GRDP is compiled on an annual basis by the National Statistical Coordination Board.

Sagittarius Mines Inc., based in Tampakan, South Cotabato, said that based on their records, Philippine mineral wealth is estimated to be 30.8 billion metric tons, 11.8 billion tons of which is metallic.

These vast resources were found in 77 percent of the country’s 76 provinces. In spite of the vast popular opposition among the affected communities, especially the highlander tribes and other cause-oriented groups like church-based organizations who go against the exploration activities of these mining companies, efforts remained unheard by the concerned Congress and Senate, said Bishop Dinualdo Gutierez, DD, of the Catholic Diocese of Marbel in Koronadal City.

“The dream to make the Philippines a newly industrializing country is a nightmare to the masses after former President Fidel V. Ramos approved the financial and technical assistance agreement [FTAA] that would leave behind the uncertainty of environmental fight against the mining firms all over the country,” Gutierez said.

Gutierez stressed that their fight against mining in Tampakan operated by Sagittarius Mines is still ongoing despite some inconsistences of the national government.

“During the administration [of former President Ramos], he not only sold the people’s interests to greedy foreign investors, but also the soul of the Filipinos, as foreign policy dictates and controls us,” Cecile Diono, spokesperson of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, said.

Diono said that Republic Act 7947, known as the Mining Act, invites foreign investors to open the country’s vast mineral resources through the FTAA, and upon crafting the FTAA, allows transnational and multinational corporations to engage in open-pit mining activities in the Philippines.

“The FTAA....[is] implemented without further restrictions and prohibitions regardless of the impact that these mining activities may bring to the local populace,” Diono said.

Fr. Roming Cathedral, director of the Justice and Peace Desk of the Diocese of Marbel, in a statement said they will not stop fighting against the mining firms operating in South Cotabato, especially SMI Mining Co., as they will strongly stand to stop its activities at all costs.

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