PHILIPPINES: Creation of Philippine Rubber Authority pushed

A lawmaker has filed a measure that would establish an agency that will guide and promote the growth and development of the rubber industry.

Rep. Aurora Enerio-Cerilles (2nd District, Zamboanga del Sur) said the benefits of such growth shall accrue to the greatest number and provide continued leadership and support in the integrated development of the industry.

House Bill 1350 seeks to create the Philippine Rubber Authority that aims to promote and accelerate development of the rubber industry and provide directions for the steady and orderly development of the industry.

"Improving the rubber sector must be done earnestly and the expansion of the industry must not end with the production of natural rubber. Other areas like manufacturing of rubber products must also be explored and this would certainly provide additional revenue for the country and prospective employment to the displaced Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) as well," Enerio-Cerilles said.

Enerio-Cerilles said the Philippines is the sixth largest producer of rubber in the world with a total plantation area of 80,000 hectares found in Mindanao. The current domestic consumption of 160,000 to 180,000 tons is expected to increase to 250,000 tons as demands increase steadily by 15 percent to 20 percent annually. Philippine rubber industry exports about 40 percent of its natural rubber production to Malaysia, China and Singapore.

"While the demand for rubber never ceases nor is diminished, it is projected that the Philippines will experience a shortage of about 20,000 to 30,000 tons of natural rubber annually because of the slow rate of replanting and of new planting programs," Enerio-Cerilles said.

At present, Enerio-Cerilles said 75 percent of the rubber farmers are small-holders operating from two to five hectares. The manufacturing sector, which involves 160 companies recently, employs almost 15,000 people or an equivalent of more than 90 people employed per manufacturing establishment.

"The Philippines import of natural rubber is minimal, recorded at 572 tons in 1996. Imports could increase in coming years with the decline in domestic rubber production and establishment of new rubber factories.

"Given the opportunities and constraints, the potentials of the rubber industry are immense and have a great potential in helping the country. Sadly, it seems that this industry is ignored and probably because it is found in Mindanao," Enerio-Cerilles said.

"What is more disheartening is to see the natural rubber produced in Region IX brought to Malaysia. It is then turned into export quality products like tires, gloves and condoms which are exported back to the Philippines, throughout Asia and if not the whole world. This scenario is like buying something that you own from others and the reason for this is the lack of government support to the industry," Enerio-Cerilles said.(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)