DAVAO CITY — Banana exporter Unifrutti Tropical Philippines, Inc. is finalizing plans to develop a 1,000-hectare farm in the island province of Basilan.

“There is already a tripartite agreement between the local government, ourselves and the cooperatives there,” Unifrutti Philippines President Alberto F. Bacani said in a press conference Friday.

The agribusiness venture agreement is awaiting approval from the Provincial Agrarian Reform Council.

Mr. Bacani said the area is just the initial project, and they see a potential of developing the province into a “banana island in the future.”

The project will be financed by the Land Bank of the Philippines, with a loan value of about $30,000, or more than P1.5 million, per hectare that will be available to the growers.

Unifrutti will provide technical and management assistance as well as ensuring a market for output.

The project was proposed by local officials to develop former coconut plantations that were devastated by pests.

Mr. Bacani also announced that the company was finalizing a partnership for the development of new farms in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao.

He said Unifrutti continues to explore areas within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which includes Basilan and Maguindanao, because of the potential of its vast arable land that is “flat and can be irrigated.”

Unifrutti has previously developed a banana plantation in Paglas, Maguindanao and pineapple farms in Wao, Lanao del Sur.

Mr. Bacani said experience in the region has taught the company that the key to successful expansion projects is finding “good partners,” which means respected and dynamic community leaders who can bring together the individual growers to establish large-scale farming.

He added that the BARMM, set up last year replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has “technocrats that are not political, but they are people who know how to run businesses and do corporate governance.” — Carmelito Q. Francisco