ARMM approves integrated cacao project worth P1-B


A Php 1.016 billion integrated cacao plantation project located in  Barangay Nuyo, Buldon, Maguindanao is set to be developed following the approval, this Monday, of the registration of ChocoInvest Corporation with the Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).


From left to right: Sukarno G. Baraguir (RBOI Board of Governor), Atty. Ishak V. Mastura (RBOI Chairman and Managing head), Sakiran A. Hajan (RBOI Board of Governor), Carlos Vargas (ChocoInvest Chief Executive Officer), Larzon G. Santos (RBOI Chief Investments Specialist Special Support & Research Division also Chairman of Management Committee)


RBOI chair and managing head, lawyer Ishak Mastura, said that the approval of the project will help the country achieve its target of 100,000 MT cacao production in the year 2020.


This will also support the government’s “Cacao Double Up Program” in line with the Philippine 2020 Cacao Challenge, which is to address the current very low supply of around 10,000 MT or 80% short of the average local consumption demand of 50,000 MT annually (Cocoa Barometer 2012).


According to Mastura, cacao growing is labor intensive thus providing more livelihood and jobs in the rural areas. 


“ChocoInvest will be granted with fiscal incentives such as Income Tax Holidays  for six years as well as other incentives being provided by the government upon the start of its commercial operations”, Mastura added.


Cacao also known as the “Food of the Gods” or the “Tree of Love” is the major ingredient in making chocolates expanding its application to food, beverage, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.


Carlos Vargas, ChocoInvest Chief Executive Officer said the project is a joint venture between the company and the Balatawan Farmers Producers Cooperative. The cooperative is composed of former Moro rebels. 


Vargas was inspired to pursue the project with the group whose members have laid-down their firearms in an amnesty program under previous administrations. “The group has decided years ago to stop the conflict and engage instead on a war against poverty”, according to him. 


The project will initially start with a 20-hectare model cacao farm which will eventually expand to a total of 1,750 hectares or more intercropped with coffee, banana, coconut and other cash crops. Aside from the domestic market, major markets are Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Australia and European Union. 


ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman in a statement said that the project is very relevant and a result of peace efforts since it involves rebel returnees, who are now active members of society and partners of development. 


"Clearly, the government’s multi-pronged strategy to prevent marginalized communities, particularly among the Bangsamoro, from being lured into extremism is bearing fruit and it is now those communities who are actively seeking economic opportunities for their communities thru partnership with investors. I have witnessed this also in Basilan, my home province, where the Abu Sayyaf laid down their arms in order to start new lives with the economic opportunities offered by both the government and the private sector,” Hataman said. (Source:RBOI)