MAGUINDANAO: Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu on Wednesday launched an all-organic banana plantation that will boost the livelihood of more than 2,000 residents here.
Civilians and soldiers joined the governor in the ceremonial planting of seedling at the 1,500-hectare “All-Organic Cavendish Banana Farm” in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town where 58 people lost their lives in the 2009 infamous Maguindanao massacre.
Mangudadatu thanked Malay–sian-based Universal Export (Univex) and local partner Al Mujahidon Agro-Resources Development, Inc. (Amardi) as well as the landowners for “successfully” realizing the plantation that is expected to improve the province’s economy.
Univex, Amardi, Manguda–datu and Ampatuan Mayor Rasul Sangki signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with initial opening of 600 hectares on March 21.
Amardi chairperson Abdul–wahid Sumaoang said 1,500 seedlings would be planted on every hectare in the areas applied with “organic” stimulants, which had earlier certi-fied “very appropriate” for banana production.
In recent public pronouncements, Mangudadatu had claimed that banana from Maguindanao is the world’s “sweetest” variety.
The farm management compound, located at the corner of the national highway and a village road leading to the massacre site has been concreted.
Works were also underway inside the compound for the administrative building and operational facilities including a processing plant, a school complex for elementary, secondary and collegiate students, a sports ground, hospital and other related amenities.
Mangudadatu said these facilities will provide jobs in addition to the more than 2,000 farmers who will be hired.
“Once completed, this will be the first Islamic agro-industrial venture in the country . . . We aim to develop the culture of Islam because that’s the right way to make Muslims truly peaceful,” Sumaoang said at the ceremonial planting rites.
Sangki said the project is a two-faceted undertaking, one aspect for transforming Ampatuan to a positive image and another for the uplift of residents’ economic condition.
“The horrible incident [massacre]had adversely affected our municipality. And we are very grateful to the governor and the investment groups for helping us in our dream for a change, through this banana farm,” the mayor told reporters.
Under the MOA, the plantation would be equipped with facilities including a complex for education, sports recreation and commerce of residents as an extension of the provincial Halal program built years back in Buluan town, according to investment documents.
The farm is separate from existing banana plantations across Maguindanao that already involved several thousands of hectares in Datu Paglas, Buluan and nearby towns.
Dozens of soldiers, led by Brig. Gen. Edmund Pangilinan, chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, joined the planting of seedlings in one-hectare pilot area along the national high-way in front of the plantation management compound in Ampatuan town.