Vast ‘all organic’ banana plantation in Maguindanao launched PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 31 July 2014 11:59

Maguindanao residents on Monday witnessed the launching near the site of the infamous “Maguindanao Massacre” of Asia’s first ever 1,500-hectare the international Del Monte fruit firm.

The entity to run the farm in Barangay Masalay in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, the Al-Mujahidun Agro Resources and Development, Inc. (AMARDI), will also put up an Islamic school, a hospital, and a “halal” food processing plant in the area to help address poverty and underdevelopment in the municipality.

The term halal is an Arabic description for food that Muslims can eat.

An emotional Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu told reporters the foreign capitalists of the “all organic” banana farm were ushered in by their own curiosity on how they can help change the image of Ampatuan town, tarnished by the gruesome politically-motivated murder in the area on November 23, 2009 of 58 people, among them his wife, Jenalyn.

The victims were in a convoy, on their way to Shariff Aguak town, seat of the provincial government, to submit there the certificate of candidacy for provincial governor of Mangudadatu, then vice-mayor of Buluan town.

They were flagged down by armed partisans, led by leaders of the Ampatuan clan, herded into hill in the west of Barangay Masalay, and, there, killed with assault rifles and machineguns one after another.

The Ampatuans had wanted their favored bet for governor, now detained Andal Ampatuan, Jr., then mayor of Datu Unsay town, to run for the highest elective post in the province virtually unopposed.

“These agricultural ventures coming in were paid in blood, sweat and tears of the massacre victims, my spouse included,” Mangudadatu said.

Also present in the on-field launching rite was Costa Rican entrepreneur-technocrat, Gonzalo Ordeñana, who is helping put up the banana farm, and his counterparts in the AMARDI, cleric Abdulwahid Sumauang, and Akmad Bullecer.

The farm will initially employ 2,000 Moro workers to propagate Cavendish bananas on contiguous rented lands owned by local residents.

The symbolic start of the plantation’s operation was jointly officiated by Mangudadatu, local officials led Mayor Rasul Sangki, Brig. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, and Agriculture Secretary Makmod Mending, Jr. of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Mending said the ARMM government is thankful to Mangudadatu for convincing foreign investors to help establish the organic banana plantation.

“We are encouraging free enterprise here. The ARMM just helped in the legalization of their entry to Maguindanao and provided them with technical support needed to hasten the realization of their dream to have this plantation in this once hostile area,” Mending said.

The figurehead of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, had earlier expressed support to AMARDI’s agriculture venture in Barangay Masalay, home to hundreds of MILF guerrillas.

Sumauang said the plantation will use only organic agricultural farm inputs to showcase the viability of environment-friendly agriculture, which is essential in the protection of the environment.

“This is, certainly, the first ever organic banana farm in Asia,” Saumaung said.

Pangilinan, who was deputy commander for the Mindanao peace process of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City prior to his assumption as 6th ID commander last May 2014, said the establishment of the banana farm will improve the security situation in Barangay Masalay and surrounding areas.

The 6th ID has jurisdiction over Central Mindanao’s adjoining Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat towns.

Pangilinan said providing Moro rebels with employment will bolster the efforts of the government and the MILF to foster normalcy in the province.