MAGUINDANAO: A Malaysian company has agreed to invest in a banana plantation project aimed at generating jobs for residents here.
Carlo Ordenana and Michael Coote of Malaysia’s UNIVEX joined hands with
Al Mujahidun Agro Resources Development Inc. (ARMADI)’s Ed Balliser and Abdulwahid Sumaoang signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) to jointly develop 1,500 hectares of land surrounding the site of the November 23, 2009 massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town.
Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of Maguindanao and Mayor Rasul Sangki of Ampatuan also signed the MoA as principal overseers during the launching ceremony at the municipal hall.
Mangudadatu said the “absence of food” is one of the causes of conflict and “this [project]will create more jobs” to uplift the long decade problems in Muslim Mindanao, particularly in Maguindanao.
“Conflict arises in places if there are no foods, so, if there are more jobs, definitely, food will follow,” he said.
Mangudadatu said the project will begin with 600 hectares. Estimated capital per hectare is $2,800.
He said members of families owning the lands will be prioritized during the hiring of workers to be followed by Moro rebels. There are owners of the project-covered lands belonging to families of combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
The venture is complementing government’s efforts in mainstreaming members of the MILF, whose leadership is set to sign with the Aquino administration their final compact agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) in Manila on March 27.
Makmod Mending Jr., secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) witnessed the signing rite, describing the joint-venture as an “added boost” to the government’s P2.4-billion agricultural projects lined up for the region this year.
Ordenana, a Costa Rican serving as UNIVEX country representative and director, said his group was first hesitant to come to Maguindanao because of the “negative image” projected of it in some media reports.
“When we came last year on invitation of Governor Mangudadatu, we realized that the reports were contrary to the potentials abounding the province. Now, we’re here launching the project in high spirit,” he said.
Ordenana said his group is also interested in helping Moro people live productive life.
“We believe they are able entrepreneurs and catalysts for progress,” Ordenana said, referring in specific to their Moro counterparts belonging to the partner AMARDI group.
During the signing ceremony, AMARDI officials also showed perspectives of the project like the Mindanao Halal Institute of Science and Technology, motorpool and warehouse, clinic and hospital, multi-place of worship (masjid), food processing complex, and recreational projects for children and adults.
Other fruit trees and value crops will also be covered by the project upon expansion in the future.