By Joe Zaldarriaga

The Philippines has long been facing challenges on food security despite having vast agricultural land ready for cultivation.

To ensure food sufficiency, the country has depended on imports, such that our import dependency ratio in 2021 was at 25.1 percent, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., who also sits as Agriculture Secretary, admitted that steps are needed to address the challenges in the agriculture sector in order to attain food security. These include helping our local farmers and boosting agriculture production.

Cognizant of this need, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), the umbrella firm of businessman and philanthropist Manuel V. Pangilinan, made foray into the agribusiness industry through investments in companies that manufacture dairy and coconut products locally.

Earlier this month, MPIC, through its subsidiary Metro Pacific Agro Ventures Inc. acquired a 34.76-percent stake in Axelum Resources Corporation for P5.32 billion, in line with its vision to become one of the largest players in the agriculture industry and support a more sustainable Philippines.

Axelum is a market leader in the manufacture and export of coconut products such as desiccated coconut, coconut milk, coconut cream, and coconut cooking oil, among others. It owns the right to distribute high-quality juice brand Vita Coco, and owns other brands such as Fiesta, Fiesta Tropicale, Red V and Romantika.

Axelum also supplies to food and beverage companies, confectioneries, bakeries, supermarkets, grocery chains, and other establishments both local and international, namely United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Japan and Asia.

According to Axelum chairman and chief executive officer Romeo I. Chan, MPIC’s entry into the agribusiness industry will help transform the coconut industry in the Philippines, particularly for the marginalized coco farmers who are crucial in boosting the agriculture sector

Mr. Pangilinan said: “The north star of our agriculture business is helping our country achieve food security. This investment into ARC will mean more income opportunities for coconut farmers as well as a broader landscape for Philippine agriculture.”

Earlier last year, MPIC also acquired a controlling stake in The Laguna Creamery Inc., which produces ice cream brand Carmen’s Best. According to MPIC, its purchase was aimed to further develop and expand the operations of the Carmen’s Best group’s dairy farm, products and manufacturing facilities. The transaction included the construction of a farm facility in Bay, Laguna, with a capacity to produce at least 6 million liters of milk per year.

These twin investments form part of MVP’s goal and priority “to feed our people first,” and support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) Goal 2, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic emerged, the MVP Group has already been one with the government in crafting initiatives that are geared towards nation-building, development of the Philippine economy, and uplifting the lives of the Filipinos through the creation of more job opportunities.

These initiatives in the agribusiness industry will effectively help support government initiatives to reduce reliance on food imports, at least for dairy and coconut products, as well as help strengthen our agriculture sector and provide livelihood opportunities to the marginalized local farmers.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.

About the Columnist

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Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.