By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
IT’S more fun on Philippine farms, especially while eating chocolates.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) is promoting Davao City as the “Cacao Capital of the Philippines,” and hatching farm tours that will showcase the cacao farms and producers.
In a news statement, Tourism Assistant Secretary for Mindanao Eden Josephine L. David said: “We believe in the perfect marriage of farm and tourism as showcased by the sweet success our cocoa growers and chocolate producers, like the Malagos chocolate.”
She noted that the Malagos chocolates, produced from a self-sustaining 12-hectare cacao farm and resort in Malagos, Davao City, was among the top 50 awardees of the Salon de Chocolat held in Paris recently. David made the statements on behalf of Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo, at last week’s gathering of over 2,000 cacao growers and entrepreneurs from all over the country, dubbed “Kakao Konek.”
Held at the SMX Lanang in Davao City, the cacao/chocolates conference and expo was an opportunity for Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and DOT officials to launch the new farm tour product called “Chocolate Tour Overload.”
In her speech, Duterte-Carpio said: “Accounting for 90 percent of the local cacao production, the spotlight is now on Mindanao with Davao as the country’s chocolate capital, even as the farmers face the challenge to meet the growing demand for Philippine cacao, indicating international recognition of its quality.”
The city mayor welcomed the participants to the two-day event, which was sponsored by 26 agro-industrial firms and 10 government agencies, including the DOT, and the departments of Agriculture (DA) and Trade (DTI).
“I am full of optimism that our micro and macro farmers and entrepreneurs will gain more insights in optimizing their productivity and in giving them an upper hand in the market,” Duterte-Carpio said.
Cacao industry leaders said they are looking to produce 100,000 metric tons (MT) of cacao by 2020. “This can only be achieved with both private and government sectors working together,” said Dante Muyco, president of the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao, the event’s main sponsor. Also at the event was Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, principal author of Republic Act 10816, or the Farm Tourism Development Act. The law mandates the promotion of tourism at agricultural destinations through partnership with the private stakeholders. This led to the DOT to create a unique position, possibly the only one in the world, called undersecretary for garm tourism. At present, the position is held by Silvino Q. Tejada, who also oversees ecotourism and faith tourism.
Last year alone, the DOT accredited 14 agritourism farms across the country, many of which are in the Calabarzon.
In her keynote address, Villar said: “Farm tourism in the country has thrived on the best practices and growth of cocoa industry.” Close to 50 percent of the country’s total land area is devoted to agriculture, which employs over 17 million Filipinos, or 25 percent of the Philipines’s total work force.
Also present at the conference was Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.
Aside from cacao farms, the Davao region also includes nature parks and farm resorts, such as Eden’s Nature Park, Hijo Banana Resort, Gumamela Caverock Farm Resort and Pearl Farm, among others.
In October the DOT launched its “It’s more fun on Philippine farms” program, which will be spearheaded by an interim Farm Tourism Development Board that includes representatives from the DOT, DA, DTI and the private sector.
The board will formulate the National Farm Tourism Strategic Action Plan, and will be assisted by a technical working group from Agricultural Training Institute, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Science and Technology and government financial institutions like Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines.
The upcoming activities will also include the search for “Farm Tourism Ambassadors” among children and young adults, and the “Sunshine Tourism Awards,” which will honor best practices in farm tourism.
The activities will culminate in a national event, “It’s More Fun on Philippine Farms Summit,” to be headed by the Farm Tourism Development Board in September 2018.