DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 Jan) – Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that they are currently scouting for about 6,000 hectares in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and neighboring areas to engage former combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in banana farming with the support from the Japanese government.
The secretary told reporters over the weekend at the sidelines of the launch of the Philippine chairmanship of the ASEAN 2017 that this arrangement was received well by the MILF when he met its vice chair for political affairs, Ghadzali Jaafar.
He said they are specifically looking at areas in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur. He added that they aim to improve the farmers’ living condition particularly in these conflict-affected areas by empowering them.
The secretary said that his department intends to develop the former combatants into entrepreneurs who would negotiate with Japanese buyers.
“I talked to Ghadzali Jaafar in the area. Right now, they are locating for us 6,000 hectares but the concept that we would like to happen there is that we help them organize into a corporation, or maybe partner them with management group who knows banana farming. We let them be the owners of their plantations,” Piñol said.
He said that the Japanese buyers want to source from Mindanao 20 million boxes a year.
The shipping will start as soon as the farmers are able to produce bananas, he said.
Piñol earlier announced that he signed a deal with a big Japanese company, Farmind Corp., for P5 billion worth of 20 million boxes of Cavendish bananas a year from the Philippines.
He said this will generate jobs for 14,000 farm workers and benefit the former rebels.
“The Farmind Corp. project is really aimed at providing livelihood opportunities for rebel returnees and beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program,” he said.
Piñol added that among the deals signed with Japanese businessmen in Japan during last year’s state visit were investments in manufacturing and agriculture that will generate considerable number of jobs.
“Japan is well-placed to remain as the Philippines’ top trading partner,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)