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DOST continues to make a difference for Caraga MSMEs through Setup.

Programs of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) continue to make a difference for the ordinary people. This includes the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (Setup).

For 2018 Setup has a total budget of P847 million, of which the national government should still increase to benefit more micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Setup is one of the DOST's flagship programs.

Vivencio 'VPO' P. Ocite Jr., president of VPO-Rosario Agro-Industrial Development Corp. in Rosario, Agusan del Sur, acknowledges the DOST for extending help to his family corporation through a Setup fund for his Sago Flour Mill.

Previous years' annual budget for Setup is only to P500 million. The Philippines has 17 regions, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Scores of MSMEs need assistance to improve their operation with the introduction of modern technology to increase productivity.

Figures in 2016 from the Department of Trade and Industry showed there are 900,914 MSMEs in the country, which generated 4,879,179 jobs and contributed 25 percent of total export revenue.

Obviously, those figures alone make MSMEs and their owners deserving of more assistance to help them become more competitive.

The Caraga region has been attending to the needs of the MSMEs in the five provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

Dominga Mallonga, DOST Caraga regional director, told the BusinessMirror that Setup has already assisted 378 MSMEs in the region from 2002 to August 2018 with with P210,776,314 fund.

She said that, of the five provinces, Agusan del Norte has the most number of assisted MSMEs with 111 firms; Surigao del Sur second at 90; Agusan del Sur third with 83; Surigao del Norte is fourth, 77; and Dinagat Islands fifth with 17.

Mallonga said DOST-Caraga already graduated 64 projects, with 314 still ongoing and under a grace period. She disclosed the figures during the Regional Science and Technology Week (RSTW) held in a mall in Butuan City early this month.

Led by Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Pena, the DOST has been staging RSTW events across the country's regions to communicate the government's Science for the People programs, projects, the products and services of the various DOST agencies promoting technology and innovation.

Part of RSTWs included visits to Setup-assisted firms and their projects that received funding from the DOST.

Setup is DOST's 'nationwide strategy that encourages and assists small and medium enterprises to adopt technology innovations to improve their operations and boost their productivity and competitiveness.'

It was designed to enable enterprises to address their technical problems using innovative technology solutions.

Clients or beneficiaries of Setup can expect to receive free technical advice from consultants; technical training courses for workers/employees; new equipment to mechanize and/or improve production lines; improve product quality; and increase productivity and competitiveness.

Under Setup, the priority covers MSMEs engaged in food processing; gifts, decors and handicrafts; metal and engineering; pharmaceutical and health products; furniture; agriculture, marine and aquaculture; information and communication technology; and halal products.

DOST regional offices may have their other priorities, as well.

One of the projects visited was the VPO-Rosario Agro-Industrial Development Corp. (VPO-RAIDC), a family business that sits on around 2,000 hectares of land in Rosario, Agusan del Sur.

VPO-RAIDC was approved as a farm tourism site, a thrust of the government to get people to visit agri-business sites and, perhaps, attract the young people to go to farming and other related endeavors.

The family of Vivencio P. Ocite Jr. owns and operates the corporation, which started operation in 1987 as VPO Enterprises, then a small-time gold mining processor.

Fondly called 'VPO,' the corporation's president is an agricultural engineer and has been wanting to go into his passion in agri-business. He did after 30 years.

Ocite, a proud Lumad, ventured into agricultural farming and production of livestock and poultry. In his vast tract of land, he planted rubber, cacao, coffee and other crops. He expanded his farming operation in 2010.

Ocite now produces his own animal feeds and fertilizers, as well as the electricity required to run his farming enterprises.

Some staff of the DOST-Caraga, when asked how wide his farm area is, would say 'as far as the eyes can see'-which would exactly greet visitors as they enter Ocite's vast farmland.

While others may just wish for 'from-farm-to-table' products, VPO-RAIDC can already make a claim to it.

The corporation's products are being sold in 'Sinubong by VPO' specialized stores with branches in Caraga and Compostela Valley, Davao region, such as eggs, meat products, rice, corn, coffee, cacao products, sugar palm products like sweeteners, vinegar, sugar palm wine, adlai cereal and sago flour.

VPO-RAIDC operates the following enterprises in its integrated farm complex:

Poultry and hatchery that produce around 90,000 to 120,000 eggs a day and hatches 45,000 chicks per week;

Piggery and slaughterhouse that butchers around 60 to 90 heads of pigs and 5,000 to 7,000 heads of chickens a day;

Pangasius farm producing around 2 tons to 3 tons a week;

Feed, rice and corn mills with a combined output of 70 tons to 80 tons a day;

Rubber-processing plant producing 250 metric ton of crumb rubber per month;

Agri-farm planted with rubber, cacao, rice, corn, coffee, sugar palm, sago palm, coconut trees and others;

Sago-processing plant;

Food-processing plant for products like sugar palm wine, vinegar, cocoa, coffee and adlai cereal

Biogas digesters that supply most of the power requirements of the integrated farm enterprise: The two biogas digesters (22,050 cubic centimeters and 16,800 cm3 that convert the pig manure, chicken dung and other wastes from the farm into methane gas to electricity in a powerhouse that gives 420 KVA of electricity;

Organic foliar fertilizer from farm wastes; and

Product display center.

If there's a product that is closer to Ocite's heart, it would probably be from the sago palm tree, which abounds in the region.

One proof is that he sought DOST Caraga's Setup intervention for a project, titled 'Product and Quality Enhancement of Sago Flour Processing through S and T [Science and Technology] intervention.'

He got an assistance worth P3.341 million which he used to buy equipment, such as shredder, pulverizer, mechanical drier and sago drill.

The Setup arrangement also came with technical assistance: plant layout, food and safety training in good manufacturing process, and training on chocolate making.

'We saw that the sago flour being the food of the Lumad was no longer getting much attention. Sago palm trees were being cut down in many areas,' Ocite recalled as he acknowledged the DOST for the help that became the firm's Sago Flour Mill.

'Our company launched a program to save the sago palm and, in fact, encouraged and convinced them [lumad] to plant more of this palm tree so they can earn from it,' he said.

The VPO-RAIDC president said they strengthened their advocacy of conserving and planting the sago palm that is endemic in Agusan del Sur through an industry that turns out products.

'It is not right [for the sago palm] to be lost. As a lumad myself, I have [benefited] a lot from it. We owe it a big gratitude because in times of scarcity the sago palm saved my family, my ancestors.

'Now, we are trying to give back with the small knowledge that we have. Agusan del Sur has about 40-percent lumad population,' Ocite said.

Other DOST-Caraga-assisted projects visited were the Bayugan Farmers Millers Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur; Eel Farm in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte; Hillsview Resort for its Mangosteen Tea in Trento, Agusan del Sur; and Geo-Safer Mindanao at Caraga State University, Main Campus, Butuan City.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Sep 30, 2018
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