By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The newly formed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is set to release next week its first ever agriculture master plan to jumpstart development of this region which has stunted by decades of conflict and bloodshed.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is now assisting BARMM’s Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) to craft its 10-year Agriculture and Fisheries Master Plan.
The crafting of the master plan, according to him, must be fast tracked so that the needed funding support could be included in the 2020 budget of the national government which is being finalized now.
It was agreed that the master plan will focus on increasing the agriculture and fisheries productivity in the region endowed with fertile soil and rich fishing grounds.
Strategies to identify critical infrastructure services like rural roads and fish ports to hasten economic growth as well as to address chronic poverty and bring down the poverty level in the region where one of the provinces, Lanao del Sur, which has a poverty incidence of 70 percent, should be included in the master plan.
The roadmap must also think of ways how to facilitate the titling of lands to end conflicts which caused many “rido” or clan wars and establish a food security plan, which would make the region self-reliant thus ensuring available and affordable food.
To facilitate its crafting, a massive stakeholders forum was held in Davao last week. Farmers, fisherfolks, government planners and leaders of people’s organizations in BARMM attended the two-day meeting.
MAFAR Chief Mohamad Yacob said the event was historic and could serve as the turning point in the development of agriculture and fisheries in the region.
“We are making history here. For the first time, we gather to chart our future in agriculture and fisheries in the Bangsamoro Region and we would like to thank President Duterte for his support and encouragement,” Yacob said.
Once the draft master plan is completed, it will be presented to BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Murad.
Piñol will also submit another copy of the draft master plan to President Rodrigo Duterte before his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.
This, as he prepares to leave the DA to takeover the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the counterpart of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in Mindanao.
BARMM — comprised of five provinces namely Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Maguindanao, Basilan and Tawitawi and the City of Cotabato — has one of the highest poverty incidence among the regions of the country.
This is despite the fact that the region possesses vast resources like Lake Lanao, Liguasan Marsh and the vast fishing grounds teeming with fish.
Last week, the DA has turned over some agriculture interventions to BARMM, including 53 units of farm tractors, nine units of rice and corn harvester, and other farm implements and inputs worth P177 million.
Italy has also recently offered to help develop the BARMM by funding some of its agri-related projects.
“We have a huge foreign investments portfolio of about $175 billion and we will be willing to invest part of this in the Philippines,” Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Manlio di Stefano told Piñol earlier.
“We would like to be involved in the whole value chain of agriculture and fisheries. We will bring with us technology and corresponding funding coming from both the public and private sectors of Italy,” he added.
The Italian Government had earlier made an offer to modernize the facilities of the National Food Authority (NFA) offering to build typhoon and flood resistant grains processing and storage facilities.
But with the passage of a new law reducing NFA’s role in the grains industry to just buffer stocking, the proposal was shelved.