Banana plantation in Ampatuan massacre site opens

MASSACRE SITE, Ampatuan, Maguindanao (MindaNews/01 August) – Dozens of heavy machineries started land preparation for a 1500-hectare banana plantation in this site Wednesday.

The plantation site, where 58 people were killed in what has been considered the bloodiest election related violence in the country, will be planted to organic Cavendish banana.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu led the ritual that signaled the start of operations by leading the prayer “Sumbali” followed by the culling of a young sheep whose blood was poured into a hole planted with a banana seedling.

He said all he wanted is change the image of this part of the province which was tainted by the massacre that killed his wife, relatives, friends and media workers.

The massacre was blamed on some members of the Ampatuan clan.

“At first it was so hard and almost impossible to be realized but with the help of the locals, the aspiration before is now a reality. This is what we really wanted to happen”, Mangudadatu said.

The farm complex will be run by Al- Mujahidun Agro-Resources and Development Inc. (AMARDI), a local firm which is financed and partnered with multinational foreign investors Univex and Delinanas.

The aim is for “exports of organic and halal banana products in the coming days “, according to AMARDI technocrat-executive Shiek Abdulwahid Sumauang.

“We are overwhelmed with the realization of this project that benefits the land owners and local residents here. This is what we want to see in our land, new developments and not the bad stories about the carnage,” said Bai Salja Biruar, chair of Barangay Salman.

Biruar owns 20 hectares of land covered by the lease and she said this means 20 of her relatives can be hired as workers.

“As much as possible we will leave no blank space and use every square inch productive. Every individual now feels there is a spring of hope coming with the livelihood offers, said Noria Dalamba, a resident.

Ampatuan Mayor Rasul Sangki said the plantation can generate at least 2,250 jobs.

The banana complex will also host a recreation center, an Islamic school, a hospital and Halal food processing plant.

Brig. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, Costa Rican entrepreneur Gonzalo Ordeñana and Agriculture Secretary Makmod Mending, Jr. of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao attended the launching on Wednesday.

Mending thanked the leaders of Maguindanao for bringing in foreign investors to help fund the project which added to the P2.5-billion investment garnered by the region this year.

“If not for you, there will be no project for the people that creates an avenue for hope”, he said.

Pangilinan said he is happy to note that the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been helping in efforts to realize the project.

“This is a good indicator that we are bringing in investors here because of relative peace and order and people’s interest in development”, he said. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)