Banana plantation to rise in Ampatuan massacre site

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao (MindaNews/22 March) – From being the site of the country’s bloodiest political violence in recent history to an agro-economic zone.

Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town in Maguindanao will no longer be just the place where 58 people, including 32 media workers, breathed their last as bullets ripped their bodies on 23 November 2009.

On Friday, local officials, landowners and investors signed a memorandum of agreement that will turn Masalay into a Cavendish banana plantation.

Gonzalo Ordenana and Michale Coote signed on behalf of Malaysian company Univex along with their local counterparts Ed Balliser and Abdulwahid Sumaoang of Al Mujahidun Agro Resources Development Inc. (ARMADI).

The signing, which took place in Ampatuan town, also served as the launching of the project which is expected to start in July.

The investors would initially open 6,000 hectares with a capital of US$2,800.00 per hectare, and offer priority employment preference for members of families owning the lands, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said.

Aside from the plantation, a halal banana processing plant, science and technology school for halal, hospital, warehouse, playground, mosque and other facilities will be built in the area.

Mangudadatu said the project proved “we have no desire for bloody revenge” but only the desire to uplift the economic condition of the inhabitants of the place.

Ampatuan Mayor Rasul Sangki Jr. said the project will surely change the image of their town.

“Our investors are Muslims too and they are generous that they decided to invest here, to bring hope to people. Around 2000 new jobs are coming,” Ornadena said.

Majority of the lands that will be converted into banana plantations are reportedly owned by the Sangki clan.

Makmod Mending Jr., secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries who witnessed the signing rite, described the venture as an added boost to the government’s P2.4-billion agricultural projects lined up for the region this year.

He said some of the lands for plantations are owned by families of combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

He said the project will complement government’s efforts to mainstream members of the MILF, which is set to sign with the Aquino administration the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)