Baybay and Borongan: Rising stars of Eastern Visayas

By Lualhati F. Perez

Things are certainly looking up in Eastern Visayas region with the ascension into cityhood of 3 urban centers - Baybay, Borlongan, and Catbalogan. Once regarded as among the country's poorest regions, it is slowly shedding its poorman's image with the exponential growth in tourism, investments, governance and pum priming of the local government to make these new cities worthy of their calling.

Situated at a vital crossroad on Leyte's western coast is Baybay, the biggest municipality in Eastern Visayas, and regarded as the agro-industrial center of the province.

"Baybay takes pride in its 13,820-hectare coconut plantation, the biggest in region 8, making it the natural choice for the site of 2 world-class coconut oil factories and a pulp paper exporter," says Mayor Carmen Cari, who also sponsored the Baybay cityhood bill when she was congressman in 2001.

She said that they have been "using their coconut", literally and figuratively, to boost the city's economic standing with the presence of Visayas Oil Mill Inc. and SC Global Coco Products Inc. which generate thousands of jobs and income opportunities for Baybayanons.

SC Global is the world's largest producer of organic coconut oil which exports 6,000 metric tons a month under the Bio Coco brand. The wholly-Filipino owned firm aims to double the production next year. It will also pump in a fresh P200 M investment for organic coco water, dessicated coconut, and virgin coconut oil to cash in on the growing global demand for healthy products.

Virgin Coco Oil boosts sexual activity - study

Philippine Star, March 1, 2012

A recent study on Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) showed that it not only helps increase good cholesterol levels but also enhances sexual activity.

"It was an interesting observation that 13% of the VCO takers experienced becoming sexually active during the whole duration of the study," the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said.

Other positive reactions include regular bowel movement, increase in appetite, better body stamina and good sleep, while the negative feedback included having soft bowel, stomach ache, sweating, feverish symptoms and nausea.

The PCA funded the 4 month clinical study conducted by the University of Santo Tomas research team involving 189 Filipinos with or without one risk factor of controlled hypertension and no other clinically significant abnormalities.

They were divided into VCO and placebo takers, but both the investigators and subjects were not aware who among them were taking VCO and who were placed in the placebo group.

The study showed that although VCO intake showed an increase in total cholesterol, there were reductions in bad cholesterol and elevation of good cholesterol. This means that the chance of heart attack, coronary artery disease and hypertension may be lessened.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the result of the study would help them draft guidelines in the manufacture of VCO products, adding that penalties await fake VCO makers while incentives will be given to those who follow the guidelines.

PCA Administrator Euclides Forbes revealed that they are currently implementing reforestation of 20 million trees to address the decrease in coconut production.

The DA has allotted P60 million for the sustainable livelihood program for coconut farming communities, which include coconut planting, replanting, fertilization and intercropping.

Banana Farming is Leyte's new sunrise industry

Manila Bulletin, April 4, 2010

ORMOC CITY (PNA) - Banana farming promises to become the next sunshine industry, thanks to the demand created by a company that has ventured into banana chips, SC Coco Global Products Inc (SCCGPI).  Said company manufactures and exports coconut oil, but its diversification has benefited banana farmers as well.

Originally based in Lucena, SCCGPI went south in 2006 when coconut supply in Luzon went down.

Picking Baybay town, which is 44km south of Ormoc, as the site for its new oil mill and refinery is the most logical choice as the town has 7,000 hectares planted to coconut and a population of 1,426 coconut farmers.

Neighboring towns Javier, Abuyog and Mahaplag are also coconut country.  Following the drop in orders for coco oil during the global financial crisis, SCCGPI expanded into exporting banana chips.

It turned out to be a good move as its banana chips facility now has the capacity to process 35 metric ton per eight-hour operation or 70MT on double shifts.

Converted to hectarage, that's 10,000 hectares requirement planted extensively to bananas or 20,000 hectares per double shift.

The opportunities available include job generation in the plant with the peeling area alone employing 150 employees.

P166-M Coco Oil Plant to rise in Leyte

Manila Bulletin, February 10, 2007 by Bernie Cahilles-Magkilat

Filipino-owned SC Global Coco Products, Inc. is investing P166 million for the establishment of a modern coconut oil refining facility that is expected to somehow improve the quality of life of the impoverished province of Leyte, the home province of former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos.

The project is not pioneering as it does not introduce a new technology but the Board of Investments said it is eligible for pioneer incentives because it would be located in a less developed area in Baybay, Leyte.  Pioneer incentives include a longer income tax holiday of six years.

Based on its application, the facility will produce reined, bleached and deodorized (RBD) coconut oil.

RBD coconut oil can be produced by treating the crude coconut oil with alkali to remove free fatty acids, then subjecting it to steam under vacuum to remove odors and flavors and filtering with carbon to decolorize yellow or dark colors.  RBD oil is edible used in food and cosmetic applications.

Copra cake or meal, the residue left after oil extraction from copra is used as an ingredient in animal feed, due to the presence of oil, protein and carbohydrates.

The project is expected to start in June this year providing employment to 101 individuals.  It will have an annual rated crushing capacity of 150 metric tons of copra per day for local manufacturers of food / snacks, restaurants, among others.

In granting pioneer incentives to the project, the BOI said the project is expected to contribute to the economic progress of the province.

Southern Leyte is one of the top 10 highly disaster prone provinces in the country and this has slowed down economic development of the province.

In 1990-1998, the province was among the top 20 poorest provinces in the country.  Although it has grown progressively in the recent years and is no longer among the poorest since 2000, recent landslide disasters in February 2006, caused immediate damage and could very well revert the province back to its old state.

The BOI further said that the project is in line with the government's Agriculture, Fisheries Modernizations Act.

But the country's coconut oil is rated of poor quality that it sells at a discounted price in the world market.  The grant of longer ITH to SC Global would help improve the quality of local coconut oil.