Sibugay: ZamPen’s top rubber producing province PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 05 July 2014 11:30

By EMMANUEL D. TAGHOY

 

IPIL, SIBUGAY JUL. 03 - - Zamboanga Sibugay boasts not only of its scenic beauty and abundant natural resources, but of its being the rubber capital of Zamboanga Peninsula (ZamPen) region owing to its large rubber plantations that contribute a significant share to the country’s rubber production.

With over 80 percent of the total Western Mindanao production (source: WPRIDP-2000 of DOLE-9), Sibugay province makes ZamPen the largest producer of rubber, having contributed more than 50 percent of the country’s total rubber production.

The province is a home to thousand hectares of rubber plantation, with a potential land area capacity of more than 100 thousand hectares. Today, a lot of farm owners have been planting rubber trees not only in Sibugay but also in neighboring provinces.

Early beginnings

The history of the rubber industry of Zamboanga Sibugay is traceable way back in the year 1919 when the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company had started its very first rubber plantation. It was the time when the country was going through difficult agricultural phase.

The company started a 1,000-hectare plantation in the town of Kabasalan, which was then a part of the province of Zamboanga del Sur. A decade after, the American Rubber Company planted another 1,000 hectares with rubber trees in Basilan. And by the late 1950s, large scale planting was being tried by Goodrich in Basilan, Firestone in North Cotabato, and Goodyear in Zamboanga del Sur.

It was Goodyear that introduced technologies for production and materials for planting rubber trees. The strategy invited farmers to plant and grow rubbers, which was then adopted by other international rubber companies in the neighboring provinces.

White gold

When the upsurge in the demand of rubber was at its peak and its price was escalating in the market, the crop was dubbed “White Gold.” Farm owners, farmers, tappers, and traders were earning a fortune. Many got interested in planting rubber trees.

But rubber is not all about financial profit. Aside from being a key commercial crop of Western Mindanao and considered one of the top commodities of ZamPen along with Abaca, mangoes, coconut, processed fish, and seaweeds, planting rubber is  good to the environment as well.

Rubber trees have tremendous underlying contribution in the greening program of the government to address global warming and climate change. In fact, rubber trees is said to sequester carbons. In some countries, it is used as a biological means to absorb or reduce greenhouse emission.

Nowadays, going “green” is the “in” thing, and rubber production industry is recognized as a green industry.

Economic value

Rubber is not just any commodity. Its economic importance cannot be underestimated, having benefited several sectors in terms of employment.

Statistics has shown that more or less than 8 thousand people of the province are relying their income solely on rubber farming – either they are employed in rubber farms and plantations, engaged in trading activities, or in the milling business.

Also, more than 35 thousand families are directly and indirectly dependent on the rubber industry, and more than 80 percent of them are farmers tilling small farms, five hectares or less.

Rubber trees are not just a great source of natural rubber, and other rubber-based products but are also used as bio-fuel and/or raw material for manufacturing and furniture production.

Issues and concerns

One of the major concerns of the rubber industry is the low quality of rubber products.

In its rubber advocacy training for the six rubber producing towns of Sibugay, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been encouraging the rubber farmers to produce quality rubber products for industrial use.

Producing high quality rubber products has been a great challenge to the farmers in the province. The DTI wants the barangay/municipal councils to pass ordinances/resolutions urging all rubber farmers to produce quality rubber products to meet market standards, thereby increasing their income.

The industry is also faced with other pressing concerns - institutional, processing, and production - which call for interventions by concerned agencies.

Government initiatives

With the looming ASEAN economic integration in 2015, the government is doing everything it can to support industries that can potentially steer economic growth. And the rubber industry in Sibugay is one sector being addressed by the government.

In fact, national government agencies together with the local government units and some non-government organizations conducted forums, conferences, and summits to further develop the industry.

Against all odds, the rubber industry in Sibugay will continue to move forward with the help and support of the government. The province cannot afford to lose its title as ZamPen’s rubber capital.