DAVAO CITY, Sept. 8 (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday thanked the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) for helping the government develop Mindanao’s agricultural potentials through its Mindanao Inclusive Agribusiness Program.
“I am glad to see that the government is not alone through this endeavor. Through the Mindanao Inclusive Agribusiness Program, PBSP and its member companies and supporting agencies seek to engage the private sector to invest in Mindanao by helping build the capacities of its small farming communities, thus enabling them to capitalize on the rich resources and the many opportunities available in the region,” President Aquino said during the launch of the program at the SMX Convention Center here.
President Aquino said the launch of the initiative comes at an opportune time, as the government seeks to transform Mindanao “from the Land of Promise to the Land of Promises Fulfilled.”
He acknowledged that for a long time, Mindanao was left in the margins, suffering from poverty and underdevelopment, but his administration has worked to reform the system and invest in communities in the region.
“We must boost Mindanao’s capacities, so that they themselves may catch up and contribute to our economic growth,” he said.
The government’s efforts resulted in the construction, upgrading and rehabilitation of 3,491 km of national roads, and 208.4 km of farm-to-market roads, he said, adding that more than P99 billion was allotted for the construction of vital infrastructure in the region from 2011 to 2014, and P63.13 billion has been proposed for infrastructure in Mindanao for 2015.
Some 161.3 km of the Digos-Kidapawan-Pagalungan -Cotabato Road were improved and 39 bridges were rehabilitated early this year, while the Basilan Circumferential Road is expected to be finished soon, he said.
The Lake Lanao Circumferential Road Project in Lanao del Sur is also targeted to be completed next year, he said.
President Aquino further said that the Department of Agriculture has helped build post-harvest facilities and provide equipment for the production of coffee, cacao, and rubber for the region.
He also called on farmers to carry out intercropping to increase the income of the agricultural sector.
Growing coffee, bananas, or cacao, alongside coconuts, will not only diversify the produce of a community, but will enable the farmer to earn more, and contribute more to the region’s economic activities, he said.
The President said he earlier learned that certain companies have already responded to the call to advance inclusive business in Mindanao.
Citing examples, he said that through its agronomy and farmer-connect programs, Nestlé has equipped local farmers with the knowledge and technique for coffee production. The company also purchases the farmers’ produce.
Bali Oil taps poor farmers from communities in Mindanao as contract growers of oil palm trees, he said, adding that in the next five years, the company plans to expand operations and provide livelihood to 22,500 households in the region.
Kennemer Foods International meanwhile trains farmers from rural areas how to plant cacao trees, and purchases their produce, aiming to generate jobs for 18,833 households in Palawan, Mindanao, and Visayas by 2016.
“If the public and private sectors remain committed to the same vision and if we maintain the synergy and trust that we have so far harnessed to undeniably positive results, we can look forward to a Mindanao that will serve as a true convergence point of trade and opportunity not only for the Philippines but also for our region,” President Aquino said.
Present during the event were Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Mindanao Development Authority Chairperson Luwalhati Antonino, PBSP Mindanao Regional Committee Chairman Paul Dominguez, and PBSP Executive Director Rafael Lopa. (PNA)