Slowing rubber sector imperils jobs, export

Published by rudy Date posted on May 29, 2009

A lawmaker warned that the country might soon face a shortage of about 20,000 to 30,000 tons of natural rubber annually as rate of replanting and new planting programs slows.

The Philippines is the sixth largest producer of rubber in the world.

According to Rep. Antonio Cerilles of Zamboanga del Sur, chairman of the House Committee on Land Use, the shortage will have a negative impact on more than 31,000 rubber production operations employing nearly 75,000 people.

Cerilles said the grim scenario should move members of the 14th Congress to act on House Bill 6326 seeking to create the Philippine Rubber Authority, which he first filed in the 8th Congress.

He said the proposed Philippine Rubber Authority would set general directions for the steady and orderly development of the rubber industry, evaluate existing policies and programs related to the rubber industry, and regulate the marketing and export of rubber products, among others.

“Expansion of the industry must not end with the production of natural rubber. Other areas, such as manufacturing of rubber products, must also be explored as this shall certainly provide additional revenue for the country and employment for displaced overseas Filipino workers,” Cerilles added.

The lawmaker said the natural rubber produced in Region 9 is sold to Malaysia, where “it is turned into export quality gloves products like tires, gloves and condoms which are exported back to the Philippines, throughout Asia, if not the whole world.”

He added, “The scenario is like buying something that you own from others. And the reason for this is the lack of government support for the industry.”

 The Philippines has a total rubber plantation area of 80,000 hectares in Mindanao. The current domestic consumption of 160,000 to 180,000 tons is expected to increase to 250,000 tons in 2010, as demands increase steadily by 15 percent to 20 percent annually.

“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,” Cerilles said.

Cerilles said 75 percent of rubber farmers are small operators owning two to three hectares of planting areas. The manufacturing sector involving 160 companies employs almost 15,000 people, or an equivalent of more than 90 people employed in one production facility.

 The country exports around 40 percent of its natural rubber output to Malaysia, China and Singapore. This is expected to increase in the 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 is immense, but sadly, the industry that has a great potential in helping the country is ignored maybe because it is found in Mindanao,” Cerilles noted. — Ira Karen Apanay, Manila Times

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