APRIL 14, 2007
 (STAR) By Edith R. Regalado - A rural development program funded by the Canadian government will focus on the halal processing industry.

Called Private Enterprise Accelerated Resource Linkages phase 2 or Pearl2, the poroject will receive Can$1 million or about P50 million from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Pearl2 is an extension of a previous program that succeeded in helping out many organizations in Mindanao that the project has extended assistance to. "This time, we decided the intervention would be in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)," said Pearl2 project director Ed Sutherland.

Sutherland described the Pearl2 extension as a "rewarding success" for what the program has achieved in its partnership with various sector industries and business organizations all over the country since Pearl2 started in 2002.

"The program has done much so that CIDA decided to give it one more year with an added fund of $1 million Canadian dollars or about P50 million," Sutherland said.

Pearl2 basically is the private sector arm of CIDA which aims to support the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as business support organizations like chambers of commerce, business councils and investment promotion centers in different parts of the country.

Sutherland said the partner-ship with the ARMM business council shall likewise be prima-rily focused on the promotion of the halal processing indus-try which emerges as among the most in demand products especially in the Muslim countries.

"There is so much room for ‘halal’ products and the market is so big. That is why, we would like to help those in ARMM get into the market through the right networking and connection," Sutherland further said.

The Pearl2 executive director stressed that the competitive advantage of ARMM also lies in the ‘halal’ industry.

"If the ‘halal’ industry could build and expand in the ARMM, and so with the supplementary services, like transportation, would also develop in the region," Sutherland added.

Sutherland expressed hope that despite the limited period, Pearl2 could make a big difference in the private sector in the ARMM, eventually paving the way for the generation of more jobs in the area.

Sutherland said Pearl2’s intervention would be with the literally young ARMM business council, which was formally established only in 2003.

The partnership between Pearl2 and the ARMM business council was forged with the memorandum of understan-ding that was signed during the recent workshop on strategic development program facilitated by the Mindanao Business Council and was held here at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao.

ARMM business council chairman Datu Haron Bandila said they welcome the assis-tance of Pearl2 although it would be on a very limited time since the program shall be terminated next year.

"Even it is just for one year, we hope to make the most out of it and we hope that with Pearl2, it would further strengthen the ARMM business coun-cil," Bandila told The STAR.

ARMM Trade and Industry Regional Secretary Ishak Mastura, who also sits in the business council as government sector representative, told The STAR, the entry of Pearl2 would be a big boost to the organization though it on a limited period compared to usual programs with most donor agencies.

"It is a challenge. But it is exciting as to how do you put all stuff in one year," Mastura said.

But Mastura was quick to point out that even if Pearl2 just linked up with the private sector in the ARMM, CIDA has already been involved in the region through its government sector arm, the Local Government Support Program-ARMM program since 1991.

"This is just the first time that CIDA got into the picture with the private sector," Mastura said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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