The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has signed a joint venture agreement with a Korean firm for the development of a 150-hectare taro and sweet potato farm at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF).
BuCor director general Nicanor Faeldon signed the agreement on Tuesday with Ohyangmok Philippines, Inc. represented by its president, Andy Kim.
Called the Ho Ho Farm Project, the farm will cultivate taro (Palawan gabi) and sweet potatoes primarily for export to Korea and Japan.
The agreement provides for a 60-40 percent profit sharing between BuCor and Ohyangmok, respectively.
Kim said their company’s farm project needs an estimated 1,000-hectare but will start with an initial 150 hectares for taro alone.
“Here, I will make sweet potato starch and then market it to Korea. Korea needs a lot of potato starch because 75 percent of production of sweet potato in the world comes from China, but they reduced production. It’s a big problem in Korea,” Kim said.
Kim added that the sweet potato starch project will need about one megawatt of electricity. While the company does not have it yet, he said they will plant taro first for export to Korea and Japan.
“There are four kinds of taro in Palawan, one of them, the Palawan gabi,” he said.
On sweet potato starch, Kim said Ohyangmok plans to produce about 50,000 metric tons per year.
Kim said they already began a taro nursery in February as their pilot farm near Balsahan Falls inside the jurisdiction of the IPPF.
Kim also noted that their plantation project will require “about one megawatt” of electric power, and acknowledged it as a challenge to them in the face of the present power supply situation.
Faeldon said the agreement they signed with Ohyangmok is mandated under Republic Act 10575 or “The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013″.
“It is a mandated task of the BuCor under the Republic Act 10575. Under that law, we can have joint venture agreements with private corporations or independently develop assets to generate resources,” Faeldon said.
Faeldon said once the operation starts, they will ensure that the project will not negatively affect their existing rice farms.
He said its irrigation plans must also be coordinated with the Puerto Princesa City Water District (PPCWD) and BuCor.
The agreement also provides that 75 percent of the firm’s manpower must also come from IPPF.