Three Hundred Sixty two (362) Moro farmers from the municipalities of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur areas covered by Camp Abubakar, a former controlled territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and recognized by the government under the peace process graduated from a training on upland rice-based farming technology, leadership, and management last March 8, 2017.
The farmers coming from Matanog, Buldon and Barira, Maguindanao and Kapatagan, Balabagan, and Marogong, Lanao del Sur received their certificate of completion signed by Sailila E.Abdula, the Executive Director of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice); Alexander G. Alonto Jr., Regional Secretary, DAF-ARMM; Susumo Ito, Chief Representative, JICA Philippines; and Ghadzali Jaafar, Chairman of the BTC.
The program is under the Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro (CCDP-B) which was concluded in December with support from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in partnership with Bangsamoro Transition Commissions’ Socio-Economic Office (BTC-SEO).
In a news release issued by JICA Philippine Office, it says that the said training is part of JICA’s Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro that aims to boost agriculture and improve public service delivery in Mindanao’s conflict areas.
Secretary Emanuel Piñol of the Department of Agriculture was the keynote speaker during the graduation ceremony.
BIAF Chief-of-Staff Sammy Al-Mansoor, in his welcome message, said: “It is good to note that this has been the product of peace process, and without it, this would not be possible. The presence of Secretary Manny Piňol today is also a proof of a successful peace process and the most important to note is that without JICA, represented by Mr. Susumo Ito, and the PhilRice headed by Dr Sailila, with the support of DA, we will face hardship in making this possible,”
Dr. Sailila of PhilRice expressed his deep appreciation to MILF leadership for their cooperation.
“The difference with the usual FFs is the inclusion of leadership and management by BLMI, and for sustainability aspect, the values transformation education, because we believe that agriculture is not only a social obligation but a religious obligation and hoping that you wouldn’t forget everything you have learned in this training”, Sailila told the farmers.
JICA Representative Ito pointed out that Mindanao has a great economic potential from the rest of the country. “Mindanao is an island with great economic potential. It is one of the largest producers of some of the Philippines’ agro-based products and its investment portfolio grows year after year,” he said.
“JICA believes that the challenges in Mindanao’s inclusive development can be overcome. We believe that peace and sustainable, equitable development can be realized since we began supporting Mindanao through the ARMM Social Fund for Peace and Development and J-BIRD or Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development nearly ten years ago,” Ito said.
“Through working together and innovating continuously, we can all make Mindanao’s agriculture sector a strategic growth driver. It will not only help secure food for your families, it will also create jobs in your communities,” Ito said further.
“Ultimately, no matter what role you play in Mindanao’s peace and development, you may be a farmer, a trainer, whatever role you may have, all of you individually and collectively, have to do it to the best of your abilities in order to succeed. Your achievements in these trainings represent an important step in making people in conflict areas realize the dividends of peace and have a better life,” he pointed out.
Ghazali Jaafar, MILF Central Committee 1st Vice Chairman, and also Chairman of the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) pointed out the program is part of Jihad. “May Allah reward you as this is part of Jihad. It is an obligation towards Allah. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) also did this, and as Muslim, we should follow his footsteps,” said Jaafar. “Our elders have been farming for a very long time, and they have their own technology and they succeed, what more now that we have the modern technology, just continue doing this as part of our Jihad”, he urged the farmers.
Maguindanao Gov. Toto Mangudadatu, has promised to support the program.
He said “In our side in the local government unit, we will never get tired in supporting the Bangsamoro because this is ours.”
DA Sec. Piñol, have cleared himself to MILF from being an anti-Moro and acknowledged that he was beaten twice in his gubernatorial race in North Cotabato because of the MILF.
Piñol is remembered by Moros as a peace spoiler especially the aborted signing of 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that resulted to a renewed conflict in Maguindanao and Lanao areas that uprooted almost a million people.
“I know many of you are mad at me. You call me anti-Moro and I know many of you made my face as a target paper; on the issue of me being anti-Moro, name a Moro whom I’ve killed?” said Piñol.
Meanwhile, DA Secretary Pinol, after clearing his role before as Governor and his new task as Secretary said “My new role now is Secretary of Agriculture and I will perform this role to the best of my ability; I am here to show you that in my new role, we are altogether. Now that you know me, I wish we can talk on what to do and how to move forward.”
He said that President Duterte was with him in Japan, and signed a marketing agreement with Farm Mine, a Japanese company that supplies agricultural products in very huge supermarket in Japan.
“In that contract, they needed 20Million boxes of Cavendish bananas every year. Meaning, we need to plant bananas five to six thousand hectares, the condition, they would like to help the peace process, they said, they will source out from the Philippines if it is from former CAAM and former MILF areas. I told Mr. Chairman, this is an opportunity for us,” Pinol said.
“I came from South Korea, meet the officials of DOLE South Korea, they need 30M boxes of Banana every year, that is 7thousand hectares from the MILF areas and also help the peace process. I told Chair Murad that I would like to change the usual things happened here wherein big companies came and rented the lands and will pay the owner for 13-15K per hectare/per year and be given jobs,” he said.
“The President would like the Bangsamoro to organize themselves into a corporation that will own this banana plantation in partnership with the management and we, DA can give financial support because there are available funds for the peace process,” he said.
Piñol said that President Duterte would want to liberate the Bangsamoro from the bondage of poverty. “Not that all the time, their lands will be used for rental only”, Piñol relayed this message of Pres. Duterte. “He wanted to change the lives of the Bangsamoro,” Piñol said. He also promised agricultural support to the MILF farmers.
The MILF Chairman Murad responded positively to the gesture of Sec. Piñol.
“Before this, they have asked me two things, first, if it is allowed to hold the affair in Darapanan, and I said yes; second question is if it is okay to invite Sec. Piñol because he is anti-Muslim and I said yes, invite him and we will turn him to Pro-Muslim. A friend of Muslim,” Murad conveyed to the farmers.
“Let’s not rehash the past and move forward for the future,” Murad said.
On the other hand, on the peace process, Murad is optimistic that the peace process will succeed soon with Duterte administration. “During the launching of the New BTC, I said this is the second chance in peace process, I am being optimistic of this second chance because our President is from Mindanao, Senate President is from Mindanao, Speaker of the House is also from Mindanao, and a lot of his Cabinet Secretaries are also from Mindanao; they can all understand us; This is the best chance for us in Mindanao to be advance.
He congratulated the agencies who have exerted their supports, the farmers, and he said: “I would like to congratulate all the graduates. May we achieve the aspiration of the Bangsamoro, that is to bring back to us our self-determination. We are the one to develop our homeland. Our land is our only wealth.”
“We are building our future. Whatever we do is our future. We have to struggle, we have to work hard in order to build our future,” Chairman Murad said.