TACURONG CITY (MindaNews/14 December) — From being 17th on the list of the 20 most depressed provinces in the country – with the 20th as the poorest – Maguindanao has moved to 15th while Cotabato, currently a 3rd class city, will be classified as 1st class by January next year.
But Maguindanao Governor Ibrahim “Toto” Mangudadatu, while happy over the announcement of the Department of Finance, was not contented as he wanted his province to be erased from the list.
Cotabato City Mayor Japal “Jojo” Guiani Jr., on the other hand, said local tax collection increased by P50-million last year, adding he wanted his constituents to “feel the impact of this development on the lives of the people by improving more on the delivery of basic services.”
Guiani said that since Cotabato City is “no longer IRA (internal revenue allotment) dependent and is now a 1st class city, we will see to it that government services will reach even the remotest village.”
The city used to be part of Maguindanao province.
Mangudadatu, meanwhile, attributed the province’s improved economic standing to the entry of investments.
He said he adopted at least three major strategies, which are focused on education, agricultural development and addressing the peace and order situation of the province.
But he added that it was yet “premature to even start counting the gains because alleviating this province could really not be done overnight. It will definitely be a long process, but I’m happy we already have done something in so short a time.”
The governor said the provincial government already has over a thousand college scholars. He said he still intends to increase the number next year, believing that “if our 24-percent literacy rate is increased to even just 30 percent it will make a big difference in our development efforts.”
Mangudadatu added that his administration is now embarking on an “aggressive agriculture development program” by investing in oil palm tree and rubber seedlings, which are given free to Maguindanao residents.
In 2011, 852 hectares of land had already been planted to oil palm trees and rubber trees with the free seedlings that the provincial government had extended to interested farmers who could show proof of ownership of the parcels of land to be planted. A seedling of oil palm tree costs P200 to P225 each while rubber seedling costs P28 to P30 each.
For distribution to farmers next year, the provincial government has again purchased P40-million worth of oil palm and rubber tree seedlings to be planted in 1,200 hectares, mostly in Ampatuan town.
Aside from oil palm and rubber trees, 2,000 hectares of land in Ampatuan have also been identified as expansion area of a banana plantation.
The seedlings, Mangudadatu said, are being given to small farmers with only one to five hectares of land, who also enjoy free harrowing by the four farm tractors that the provincial government had purchased.
“They pay only for the fuel cost of the tractor,” the governor said, but he added that the cost of farm maintenance and inputs will be the counterpart of the farmers.
Mangudadatu expected that in three years time each of the farmer-beneficiaries to earn an additional income of P10,000 every month for every hectare planted to oil palm or rubber tree.
Aside from the four farm tractors that the province purchased, it also had dispersed over 100 carabaos to rice and corn farmers this year.
But the “aggressive agricultural development” program of Maguindanao, Mangudadatu said, would always be disrupted by unstable peace and order situation caused mainly by rido (family feuds), a reason he organized the Maguidanao Task Force on Reconciliation, which has already resolved at least 11 rido of big clans in the province.
“The MTFR has contributed a lot in the relative peace that we have now in Maguindanao,” he said while acknowledging the “traditional leaders, religious leaders, representatives of civil society organizations, professionals, like doctors and lawyers” who compose the task force that he heads.
“We use the traditional way of settling conflicts because these people would not file a case in court and are used to putting the law into their hands. But we usually seal any settlement with a document that the parties will sign. The document emphasizes that any of the parties who would violate the agreement shall be sued in court.” (Romy Elusfa/MindaNews)