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Philippines Community engages in biotech
enterprise by the Go Negosyo team
17-April-2008 The Philippine STAR
The growing market for herbal-based
products has made a rural community in Palawan, the country’s
last ecological frontier, take advantage of the entrepreneurial
But instead of putting up a private company geared for
high growth, Palaweños opted to start a social enterprise
which has not only benefited them economically but also
helped protect and preserve their environment.
Before the Palawan Center for Appropriate Rural Technology
(PCART) was organized in 1984, many forested areas in northern
Palawan were slashed and burned to become rice fields. But
the costs proved too steep; while lands subjected to kaingin
(slash and burn) became permanently deforested, each hectare
only produced an average of 10 cavans of palay every year.
“But we can’t blame the people living there,” explained
Dr. Jose Antonio Socrates, Palawan’s Provincial Health Officer
and chair of PCART. “Because farming was the only thing
they knew, they had to do it or else they would starve.”
PCART is a non-stock, non-profit non-government organization
(NGO) engaged in development work with rural communities
in Northern Palawan. It started as a peasant organizing
program of the Farmers’ Assistance Board (FAB), a national
But after a year, the program took on other issues aside
from peasant organizing to respond to the other needs and
concerns of the community. “We realized that what communities
need is a sustainable organization that will help their
livelihood, their lives and the environment,” said Socrates.
Soon, it evolved into a full-blown organization, separate
from the FAB, and was formally registered with the Philippine
Securities and Exchange Commission in February 1985.
Today, as it continues to organize marginalized sectors
in the rural areas of Palawan, PCART also endeavors to empower
them and address their basic problems, such as poverty,
lack of access to productive sectors and environmental degradation.
“We believe community organizing necessarily involves socio-economic
support services,” said Socrates. “So we focus primarily
on sustainable agriculture, enterprise development, and
health and social welfare.”
From just five communities 24 years ago, PCART is now working
with 19 barangays and their partnership has resulted in
the significant and continuous transformation of the people
and their environment, providing food security, basic facilities
and services, forest preservation and increased health and
“After more than a decade of development work, we realized
we had to become more sustainable,” explained Socrates.
“PCART had to be self-sufficient; we can’t afford to just
rely on donations for funding of our projects.”
Their efforts resulted in the creation of the Palawan Bio-Farm
Enterprises (PBE) in 1998, which engaged in a social enterprise
they called the Herbal Processing Project, their biggest
income-generating project so far. Despite having a separate
structure, PBE remains non-stock and owned by PCART.
“The project primarily involves the production and processing
of a variety of herbs into powder to supply the needs of
the growing herbal industry,” Socrates said.
Their long-time funding partners, Helvetas (Swiss Association
for International Cooperation) and Bread for the World,
a Germany-based organization, contributed the seed money
used for buying equipment, the construction of a processing
plant and drying facilities in participating communities,
and the development of initial herbal production areas.
Increased opportunities from a growing herbal market recently
allowed PBE to expand their product line and enter into
trading other products of PCART’s partner communities, like
unpolished organic rice (black, red and brown varieties),
organic vegetables, wild honey, cashew nut, taro, banana,
abaca and agutay (wild abaca), copra meal, and various handicrafts
But even as they expand, Socrates said that PCART remains
clear in its focus on community development. “A conscious
effort to ensure our partner communities’ food security,
income and sustained resource base is ingrained in us already.
That’s our template for success,” he added.
Yesterday, Joey Concepcion, founding trustee of the Philippine
Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE), together with Maoi Arroyo
of Hybridigm Consulting and Rolando Hortaleza of Splash
Corp. led the conferring of recognitions to PCART represented
by their Executive Director Laurence Padilla as Go Negosyo’s
Most Inspiring Biotechnology Community Venture, in the 4th
Annual Philippine Biotechnology Venture Summit at the Ateneo
School of Medicine and Public Health Auditorium in Ortigas
Avenue, Pasig City.
The Summit, which runs until Friday, is organized by Hybridigm
Consulting, the pioneering technology commercialization
firm, under the leadership of Maoi Arroyo. Go Negosyo has
reiterated its strong commitment to recognize inspiring
entrepreneurs throughout the country to present them as
role models, in line with PCE’s vision to create an entrepreneurial
culture in the country.
The public is invited to attend the Biotechnology Venture
Summit to discover and learn innovative business ideas and
new opportunities in the biotech field. For more information
on the Biotech Summit, call 8108639 or log on to http://summit.philbiotech.net.
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