ECONOMY External Contex of the Economy
Surigao del Sur’s natural resources is plentiful and enormous: vast agricultural lands; rich aqua-marine resources and beaches; immense forestland full of biodiversity, premium wood species; and numerous beautiful spots. Upon these resources rest the firm foundation of the province’s economy. The province though has not yet fully developed its agri-fishery and forestry sector; neglected its manufacturing and processing sector; and just begun significant progress with its wholesale/retail trading and various services.
Since 1960, when Surigao del Sur became a province the base of its economy has been primarily agriculture, fishery and forestry. Forest production played a leading role in the early years when there were at least six (6) large wood-based companies that took control and managed our forest resources. Four (4) of these companies had established manufacturing/processing plants that produced veneer, plywood, pulp and paper. Despite poor infrastructure support in previous years, trading and services sectors has grown steadily particularly in the capital town of Tandag, the municipalities of Cantilan in the north and Barobo in the south and Bislig City. Trading and services sectors today are vibrant and profitable. This has driven the people to become more productive and continue unleashing the power of its natural resources, to sustain economic growth, hasten social development and enhance political stability.
Surigao del Sur’s mineral resources also abounds. This includes sand and gravel and other quarry materials and enormous deposits of coal, iron, and nickel to name a few. Its iron deposit shares with the southern portion of Surigao del Norte the distinction as the “world’s largest” in the hemisphere. Development in this sector has been well underway lately as demonstrated by ongoing mining operations in the northern part of the province. A significant number of small scale mining and quarrying permits have also been issued by the Provincial Government that helps boost the construction industry.
The improvement of our national highways recently and the closure of all but one of the large wood-based industries had shifted somehow Surigao del Sur’s economic base towards more activities in agro-forestry and fishery. While coconut and rice farming have dominated agriculture in the province, banana production and agro-forestry are now emerging as new industries that provide employment and income to the local workforce. Large investment in establishing banana plantation has been infused recently by the private sector and a number of LGU’s are supporting abaca plantations intercropped with fast-growing plantation trees (such as falcata), demonstrating a concerted effort to develop the emerging industry. In its municipal waters, aquaculture is also gaining ground as more areas are now devoted to seaweed plantations. Seaweed is one of the country’s export winners.
Perhaps, the most significant impact of the improved condition of Surigao del Sur’s national highways and local road networks is the emergence of tourism as a viable and sustainable industry with great potential for development. Tourist arrivals from neighboring provinces and cities have been increasing yearly since our tourist destinations became accessible in 2009. Once left untouched and untapped the province’s beautiful sceneries, its beaches, rivers and waterfalls are now the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Caraga region.
Surigao del Sur’s natural and human resources is so enormous and balanced that one would think it has all it needs to become the most progressive province in the region. Given these resources, Surigao del Sur’s economy has only one way to go - upward. The challenge is how to assemble, harmonize and effectively implement all of the critical inputs into one holistic and sustainable economic and physical development framework.