More socio-eco projects in Maguindanao in 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 03 January 2014 12:47

Local officials in Maguindanao are optimistic of more successes in 2014 in their continuing bid to reinvent the province into a progressive agricultural hub, where folks can till their farms peacefully and sell their products in the markets anytime via “all weather” roads.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who has been providing interventions meant to improve the productivity of Muslim and Christian farmers since 2010, has just been allowed by the provincial board to avail of about P2 billion loan from the Philippine National Bank to pursue his administration’s peace and socio-economic agenda for 2014 and beyond.

Bobby Katambak, chairman of the provincial board’s committee on appropriations, said the loan is intended for the expansion of the provincial government’s livestock, oil palm, corn, rice and rubber tree propagation programs.

Former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Pinol, who is now into breeding of chickens imported from Europe, and the United States of America, with domestic Philippine fowls, already volunteered to help expand his chicken breeding program in Maguindanao in 2014, to enable Moro farmers to acquire new bloodlines that are good for egg and meat production.

The provincial government intends to put up an oil palm processing plant in Maguindanao too.

A big chunk of the amount to be borrowed from the bank is earmarked for Mangudadatu’s  Maguindanao Program for Educational Assistance and Community Empowerment (MagPEACE), and for the dredging of now heavily-silted rivers criss-crossing the province.

The governor started MagPEACE with less than a thousand scholars after his first election to office in 2010. The project expanded this year, accommodating more than 4,000 scholars, many of them children of active members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Apparently, the presiding chairman of the provincial board, Vice Gov. Datu Lester Sinsuat, and all board members were convinced that the amount to be borrowed from the bank will be put to good use by our governor, so the board gave him full imprimatur to avail of such loan,” Katambak, who is in his first term as provincial board member, told The Star.

A practicing lawyer, Katambak, who hails from the second district of Maguindanao, said the governor had also asked them to support his 2014 projects that are aimed at generating public consciousness on rights of women and children, and the empowerment of lowly-villagers engaged in traditional and indigenous crafts.

Records obtained from Lynette Estandarte, Maguindanao’s chief provincial budget officer, indicated that the provincial government had, in recent years, distributed 214,000 rubber tree and oil palm seedlings to Moro and non-Moro farmers in Maguindanao’s 36 towns.

“The provincial government wants these projects continued because it is only by way of empowering our local farming communities and our constituents engaged in inland and marine fishing livelihood ventures that the province can soar high and become at par with provinces around us,” Estandarte said.

Katambak said the PNB apparently do not have any apprehension in allowing the provincial government to avail of huge loan owing to Mangudadatu’s good payment record for the almost P600 million unpaid loan by the erstwhile governor of Maguindanao, Andal Ampatuan, Sr.

“The incumbent governor just inherited such indebtedness. Just imagine how troublesome and cumbersome it is to settle an inherited account of such magnitude, without even knowing the mechanics on how that loan was spent,” Katambak said.

“Only P29.4 million from that loan remained to be settled by Gov. Mangudadatu,” Katambak added.

Mangudadatu, in an emailed statement, said the dredging of the now heavily-silted rivers traversing low-lying towns in the province, whose residents rely mainly on rice farming as main source of income, is just as important as providing Maguindanao’s Moro and non-Moro peasants with seedlings, farm animals, and other agricultural inputs.

“The security situation in the province has improved considerably in recent years as a result of the continuing peace talks between the government and the MILF.It is the frequent flooding in rice-producing towns in the province, when the rivers overflow even at the slightest rains, that we need to address now,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu said the loan the provincial government will avail shall be released and spent in tranches, based on a provincial development blueprint for 2014.

Mayor Ramon Piang of North Upi town in the first district of Maguindanao, who is a member of the government panel negotiating with the MILF, said he and his constituents will support the peace and development plans of the provincial government for 2014.

“There is no problem with us supporting our governor’s development plans for 2014. Socio-economic empowerment of all sectors in Moro-dominated areas in Mindanao is a very important component of the GPH-MILF peace initiative,” Piang said.