Maguindanao MNLF men plants ‘bananas for peace’ PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 20 September 2014 11:41

Hundreds of former guerrillas on Thursday reaffirmed commitment to the Mindanao peace process as they launched their 500-hectare self-sustained community Cavendish banana farm project in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in the province.

The project, which involves members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is Maguindanao’s first ever large-scale communal farming venture funded only with cooperative capital, without any support from foreign investors.

Datumama Guiaman, chair of the Barangay Bago Inged Multi-Purpose Cooperative, told reporters the members of the peasant communities in their largest enclave in Central Mindanao, Camp Ebrahim, will help each other put up the banana farm with seedlings from local donors.

Guiaman said what emboldened them to embark on their self-sustained farming project was their failure to avail of a capital loan from different banks for apparent lack of trust.

“It was so hurting not to be trusted like that. We decided to forge ahead with the help of our leader and his friends in the business community,” Guiaman said, referring to former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the MNLF’s largest and most politically active faction.

Camp Ebrahim, scene of fierce military-MNLF clashes in the 1970s, is located in the southwest of Barangay Bago Inged, now a government-recognized “peace zone,” where former rebels thrive as farmers.

Thursday’s launching of the banana farm project was led by Sema and spouse, Sandra, who is incumbent Maguindanao first district congressional representative, and Chinese couple Leo and Rhea Lai, who are both engaged in Cavendish banana exportation business.

The event was capped off with the renewal by former rebels belonging to the MNLF-Sema group of their commitment to Malacañang’s peace overture with Moro sectors and to the peaceful resolution of misunderstandings on the implementation of their September 2, 1996 final peace pact with government.

The government-MNLF truce was brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim states, including petroleum exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Entrepreneur Eduardo Dela Fuente, Jr., a trading consultant of the MNLF-led cooperative, said the Sema couple is now trying to establish contacts with banana buyers abroad through friends in OIC-member nations.

The MNLF’s top commander in Camp Ebrahim, Eddie Taup, who saw combat action during the 1970s, said Thursday’s ceremonial kickoff rite for their cooperative banana farming was also a manifestation of faith in their now 19-year truce with government.

“We will not plant bananas if there is no continuing tranquility in our surroundings. We in the MNLF-Sema group are not at war with our brothers in the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) so why worry? We have strong faith in the GPH-MNLF peace agreement too,” Taup said.

The MILF also has dozens of scattered enclaves in Maguindanao, which hosts the group’s main bastion, Camp Darapanan.

Taup, who has hundreds of armed followers, was among the first to condemn the brigand MNLF renegades involved in the siege of several coastal barangays in Zamboanga City in September 2013.

MNLF members in Central Mindanao, including the group of Datu Dima Ambil in North Cotabato, who also has more than a thousand armed followers, just calmly stayed in their camps while their misguided comrades loyal to Nur Misuari were pre-occupied with their deadly forays last year in Zamboanga City.