The government is stepping up efforts for an agriculture development initiative in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao, noting that inclusive growth in the poorest sector will play a vital role in achieving lasting peace in the region, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Wednesday.
“With robust and inclusive agricultural development, the economic conditions of the people of Mindanao, especially farmers—be they Muslims, Christians or Lumads—will be uplifted,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said during his visit to Mindanao.
He said the government is now studying every opportunity and vehicle to peace, progress and development to empower and enable farmers to fully integrate in the chain of progress.
“We can only realize lasting peace in Mindanao if our fellow Filipinos here, particularly farmers, are economically empowered,” he added.
The DA chief recently visited Pikit and Aleosan, North Cotabato; Cotabato City and Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat for the Ulat sa Bayan and Peace Caravan, which form part of the government’s transparency mechanism and support to peace-building efforts.
The activities also included turnover and distribution of checks for agri-fishery projects and livelihood assistance to local government units, farmer organizations and individual farmers.
During his dialogues with agriculture stakeholders, Alcala highlighted that it is only under the current administration that 30 percent of P88.8 billion total budget of the DA has been allotted to Mindanao.
“This is recognizing its vast potential and the need of its farmers to keep pace with agricultural development in other parts of the country, considering that it has long been lagging behind because of insurgency war,” Alcala added.
He said the DA has been prioritizing underprivileged farmers in far-flung and conflict-affected areas in Mindanao for the allocation of programs and projects such as livelihood assistance.
“We believe that expanding opportunities for these farmers will not only give them better living conditions that they deserve but discourage them to take part in perpetuating insurgency and conflict in the region,” he added.
P398M in projects
Alcala personally handed over P398-million worth of projects and livelihood assistance to farmers in SOCCSKSARGEN (Region 12) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and local government units (LGUs) as a symbol of the government’s relentless efforts in pushing for accelerated agricultural development in Mindanao.
The farm machineries and implements, livestock modules and seeds that were distributed will help the farming communities recover from natural calamities, such as the currently experienced drought, and man-made disasters such as armed conflict.
The DA chief also distributed checks under the national government’s Bottom-Up Budgeting and “Payapa at Masaganang Pamanayanan” or PAMANA) programs to the municipal LGU recipients.
He likewise awarded Certificates of Commitment for High-Yielding Technology Adoption (HYTA) amounting to P108.5 million to the four provinces of SOCCSKARGEN with North Cotabato receiving P36.7 million; P31.5 million for Sultan Kudarat; P22.1 million for South Cotabato; and P14.03 million for Saranggani.
While in Mindanao, Alcala met with Gov. Mujiv Hataman of ARMM and ARMM-Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Secretary Macmod Mending Jr. to discuss the current status of the agri-fishery sector in the region and determine added interventions that the region needs, especially for farmers displaced by armed conflict in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.