• Maguindanao turns swords into plough shares

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    MAGUINDANAO: In a move reminiscent of the Biblical prophecy of turning swords into ploughshares, Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu is considering the conversion of the Maguindanao massacre site and the old main camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) into banana plantations.

    The province will plant next week an initial 600 hectares of the targeted 1,500 hectares in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan town, and will negotiate the cultivation of another 3,000 hectares in the old main camp of the MILF in the vast land of Iranons, Mangudadatu said.

    The project in Ampatuan town, where the nightmare November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre occurred is “all set up” and residents started relocating to “immediately begin” planting in the area, he said.

    The project on the massacre site is a joint-venture with the foreign investors, Malaysian’s Univex and Maguindanao-based Al Mujahidon.

    Camp Iranon, formerly known as Camp Abubakar Siddique, was captured from the rebels during the Estrada administration’s “all-out-war” against the MILF in 2000 and covers thousands of hectares in the Iranon towns of Buldon, Barira and Matanog in Maguindanao and partly of Butig in Lanao del Sur. Another banana plantation planned there will be funded separately by the World Bank through the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP), the governor said.

    Some 3,000 hectares of the camp is now being prepared for planting Cavendish banana under the agriculture component of the PRDP’s Mindanao-focused segment bankrolled by the World Bank, Mangudadatu further said.

    Unifruti, an international firm implementing the PRDP-WB venture, earmarked between $25,000 and $28,000 for each hectare or $84,000 for the whole three hectares, and would launch works for the plantation “as soon as possible,” the governor said.

    Mangudadatu and his technical staff were briefed on the details of the project at a meeting in Davao City by WB, PRDP and Unifruti officials in the sidelines of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s conference at the same venue with elected leaders of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on February 12.
    The governor said he and the same investing officials signed a similar memorandum of understanding for the immediate implementation early this year of another one-hectare banana farm in Guindulongan, Maguindanao.

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