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Alvarez and Gonzaga said the proposal seeks to further develop the country’s banana industry and address the serious diseases afflicting it.

“The banana industry has generated earnings amounting to an average of $720 million a year, provided employment to 240,000 workers and contributes P830 million in taxes to local government units,” Alvarez said in his explanatory note.

“On top of that, it also supports 30,000 agrarian-reform beneficiaries and small landowners under various contract-growing arrangements or lease arrangements,” he added.

Citing the Mindanao Development Authority, Alvarez said the banana industry is a significant player in Mindanao as 13 out of the 26 provinces in southern Philippines are dedicated to banana production.

The center, which will be established in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, will be known as the “Antonio O. Floirendo Sr. Banana Research and Development Center” in recognition of the contributions made by Antonio O. Floirendo Sr. to the banana industry.

Gonzaga said there has been a strong clamor for a specialized and banana research center to undertake scientific research which will further develop the industry and address the issue of

sustainability.

He said the industry has suffered from setbacks brought about by a lot of factors, such as El Niño, the devastation of Typhoon Pablo and the recurrence of the uncontrollable spread of Panama disease.

According to the lawmaker, banana producers and stakeholders have voiced out their concerns regarding the industry’s sustainability.

Under the bill, the research center will be placed under the Department of Agriculture and shall be mandated to integrate, collate, and support research and development programs and studies on the banana industry and to conduct continuing research on developing productive, high-yielding, disease-resistant and good varieties of banana.

The measure also said the center will conduct comprehensive studies and research on banana diseases and how to efficiently and effectively address these concerns.

The center will establish, upgrade and maintain germplasm collection and gene bank for banana and banana strains. It seeks to accelerate the transfer of improved banana technologies to farmers and other stakeholders through on-farm research, and scale-up best practices to effectively develop and strengthen the banana supply/chain value.

Earlier, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said it is high time for government to come in and support the banana industry.

“The banana industry is an industry that grew out of its own resources, of its own efforts. It barely received any support from the government,” Piñol said.

He said the banana industry has reached its current status as the second-largest dollar earning industry, agro-industry without any support from the government.

“But right now the industry is suffering from a very serious disease called Panama disease. Despite this, the government has not really intervened. When the China market closed about two years ago, the government failed to assist the banana growers,” Piñol said.□

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