By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — With a vote of 22 affirmative, 0 negative and 1 abstention, the Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the bill declaring Davao City as the Chocolate Capital and Davao Region as the Cacao Capital of the Philippines.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1741, said “the bill seeks to recognize Davao as the country’s biggest producer of cacao and its vital contribution in making the Philippines world-renowned and sought-after by chocolate makers from the United States, Japan and Europe.”
In sponsoring the measure, Villar cited the Philippine Statistics Authority data saying that approximately 78.76 percent of the annual production of cacao in the Philippines comes from the Davao Region or Region XI composed of Davao del Sur, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao de Oro, and Davao Occidental. There are also more than 20,000 hectares of cacao farms in the region, and Davao City has the largest area.
“The Philippines has about 15,000 cocoa farmers nationwide. The bill hopes to make Davao City and the Davao Region become an inspiration and a benchmark to motivate other local government units to emulate,” Villar said.
Villar also noted that Davao City is home to Malagos Chocolate, which has won 28 international awards. The brand was also designated as one of the 16 heirloom cacaos in the world by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund, which is an initiative of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association.
The lady senator also stressed that the bill is not intended to give any special financial assistance or privileges to the city and the region, and that the 1-page bill will simply give recognition for the pioneering and outstanding collective contribution of the cacao farmers who are mostly small holder farmers supplying dry cacao beans to mostly small to medium-scale enterprises processors and manufacturers locally and abroad.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa in co-sponsoring the measure, said the bill, if passed into law, would “recognize our beloved cacao farmers and growers with great respect and appreciation, worth more than what any international award could give.”
“After all, it is to them that we owe the honor we enjoy today, the honor of producing chocolate that ranks among the world’s best, truly deserving of chocolate’s other name—‘food for the gods,’” he added.
Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go, who hails from Davao, is also one of the co-authors of the bill.