KAUSWAGAN, Lanao del Norte (MindaNews/26 August) — This once war-torn town has been named the top recipient of “Gawad Galing Pook Award” in a decision released by a 15-member evaluation committee.
The committee found the sustainable peace and development agenda of Kauswagan’s “From Arms to Farm” program an exemplary performance of good governance.
Town Mayor Rommel C. Arnado told Mindanews in an interview last week the program was intended for former Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels who did not receive the assistance promised to them.
Arnado said the program did not require the rebels to surrender their firearms, just their willingness to support the peace initiative and at the same time avail of livelihood opportunities based on their needs and capacity.
He said the program succeeded because the MILF commanders approached them.
The mayor said among the MILF commanders who availed of the program were Benjie Lucsadato, Ysmael, Mutia and Limbona and some of their followers.
Mustaba Macapaar, an active MILF political officer based in barangay Delabayan, and two Moro National Liberation Front commanders Dante and Batman also availed, he added.
Commanders Aguila and Kalayaan were set to receive assistance from the program during the second phase of the program.
Arnado said the rebel returnees underwent training in organic farming and technical skills through the Dona Laureana Rosales School of Practical Agriculture with technical and financial support from Assisi Development Foundation Inc. and government agencies.
Kauswagan now has 280 hectares planted with organic upland rice to be increased to 500 hectares next year, he said.
The municipal government also facilitated the construction of a potable water system, farm to market road, fish cages and a demonstration farm facility, he added.
Arnado said a baseline survey conducted by Assisi Development Foundation and the local government unit in 2013 found that Kauswagan has reduced its poverty incidence from 79% to 47.5% with improved livelihood opportunities and better peace and order situation.
President Aquino III will give the award to Kauswagan sometime in October.
Aside from Kauswagan, the other top contenders for the award were the provinces of Quezon, Ilocos Norte and Tarlac and Quezon City. (Richel V. Umel/MindaNews)