ARMM seeks bigger agri funds for 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 May 2014 11:25

The agriculture department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is seeking a bigger budget for 2015 to hasten the empowerment of ARMM’s peasant communities in preparation for the creation of the new Bangsamoro entity.

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are keen on creating — via the Basic Bangsamoro Law as an enabling measure — an MILF-led new Bangsamoro political outfit to replace the ARMM before the 2016 synchronized local, regional and presidential elections.

Regional Agriculture Secretary Makmod Mending, Jr. only said “enough to sustain the momentum of the now flourishing agricultural projects in the region” when asked how much budget increase will the ARMM’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries ask from the national government.

DAF-ARMM officials had presented and defended their proposed 2015 budget in an initial regional-level budget hearing in Davao City early this week.

Mending politely declined to elaborate on the budget figures pending presentation of their proposal to the House of Representatives and Senate for approval.

He said the budget increase is intended for the development of an agricultural and eco-tourism research center in Maguindanao’s North Upi town, homeland of the ARMM’s non-Moro indigenous ethnic Teduray people, and the establishment of the Maridagao rice experiment station in the same province.

Mending said they would also need additional funds for the DAF-ARMM’s climate change mitigation program, and for the implementation of the “Gulayan sa Barangay” in at least 500 barangays, and the putting up of bamboo nurseries in selected areas.

“Employees of the DAF-ARMM are cognizant of the need for them to do a lot of interventions that can hasten the realization of the socio-economic and normalization objectives of the government-MILF peace efforts,” Mending said.

DAF-ARMM employees are optimistic of a positive outcome of the GPH-MILF peace initiative. Many of them are certain their May 21-23 commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the agency’s devolution to the regional government by Malacañang, under the region’s first charter, Republic Act 6734, could be their last.

The ARMM’s old charter was amended, and became R.A. 9540, via a plebiscite in 2001, which resulted to the inclusion of Basilan and Marawi City into the autonomous region, which originally started only with the scattered provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi under R.A. 6734.

The DAF-ARMM’s three-day event, held in Cotabato City, was parallel with the 11th regional farmers and fisherfolks’ achievement and recognition week celebration, to highlight the role of the two sectors in ensuring “food security” in the autonomous region.

Khadiguia Abdullah, chief of the DAF-ARMM’s information division, said organizers brought together, through a trade fair in Cotabato City as part of the three-day event, the agriculture and fishery products from across the autonomous region to put a good show of the socio-economic benchmarks of the five  ARMM provinces that the MILF and the government wants to fuse together under a new Bangsamoro political entity.

Abdullah said the DAF-ARMM has, in fact, calendared the implementation of more agriculture and fishery projects in the autonomous region as part of the regional government’s effort to “capacitate” the local peasant and fisherfolk communities to sufficiently empower both even before the GPH and the MILF starts the normalization process meant to decommission thousands of Moro guerillas for them to become full time farmers and fishermen.

“This is the reason why we need more fiscal and administrative support from the national government for 2015,” Abdullah said, adding that their agency is now touted as among the region’s most active in implementing interventions meant to address poverty and underdevelopment in Moro communitiies.

Hundreds of farmers joined Tuesday’s first ever DAF-ARMM organic farming summit in Cotabato City, one of the highlights of the agency’s May 21-23 activities.

Participants discussed during the summit the importance of environment-friendly agriculture amid the alarming changes of weather patterns now affecting plant and livestock production.

Mending said the summit was meant to educate Moro, Christian and lumad peasants on the cost-efficiency and lasting benefits of organic farming.

ARMM is among the country’s main agriculture hub and Mindanao’s top producer of corn and carageenan seaweeds.

About 80 percent of the residents in the ARMM provinces, known bastions of the MILF rely mainly on rice and corn farming as main sources of income.