THE Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), agreeing to focus on growing its exports of seaweed and coconut products to markets outside the region.

Signing for the Philippines was Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the MoU aims to promote a scheme that will enable products of member-states to “strategically position themselves on matters affecting trade in the international market and ensure that ASEAN products are being produced through sustainable means.”

The MOU was signed on Oct. 15 in Brunei.

The agreement covers Philippine products like seaweed and seaweed-based products; coconut oil, copra meal, desiccated coconut, Oleo chemicals, Virgin Coconut Oil, coir fiber, coconut milk and cream, activated carbon, coco shell charcoal, and coconut water.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), coconut products exported in the first eight months of the year were worth $882.95 million, down 14.2% year-on-year. Exports of dried seaweed totaled $11.19 million, up 118%.

The program also covers Malaysian cocoa and palm oil; Vietnamese coffee; Myanmar peas and beans; Indonesian pepper, tea, and tuna; and Thai tapioca and silk. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang