By Madelaine B. Miraflor
SIQUIJOR – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will require a funding worth P100 billion to develop its farm sector within the next decade, according to the region’s recently crafted agriculture master plan that has already been submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte last week.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the Department of Agriculture (DA) and its counterpart BARMM’s Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) intentionally fast-tracked the crafting of the region’s first-ever agriculture and fisheries roadmap so it could be presented to Duterte before his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) scheduled today, July 22.
The master plan was also presented to BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim.
Part of the master plan is a proposal to establish attached agencies like the National Food Authority (NFA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to MAFAR.
“As soon as the government says okay and approve the funding, we will start the implementation of the master plan,” Piñol told reporters on the sidelines of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan (MMK) 2018 Awarding Ceremony and Awarding of Agri-Fishery Livelihood Ceremony that was held here.
Piñol, who has already resigned from his position as the Agriculture secretary, is currently the Duterte Administration’s “focal person” in BARMM. He will soon become the chair of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the government agency tasked to oversee the economic and development authority in the Bangsamoro region.
Even with the huge funding requirement, Piñol said he doesn’t think BARMM’s agriculture master plan will be a “burden” to the national government because there are so many countries that are willing to help.
In separate meetings with the DA, the Italian and Turkish governments have recently expressed their interest to help develop the agriculture sector of BARMM.
“The Italian government is asking for a copy of the master plan as well as the Turkish government. The want to know which areas of they can be of help in terms of the agriculture sector,” Piñol said.
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.
Before the DA and MAFAR completed the master plan, Piñol earlier said P1 trillion is needed to develop the war-torn region over the next 10 years.
“Even our budget planners would probably back off and say: ‘Whoah! Wait a minute! That’s a lot of money to be spent for one region of five provinces. That’s too much’,” Piñol said.
“To those who would look at [this] as an excessive financial requirement for the development of the Bangsamoro region, I will ask them these questions: How long has the conflict in this region dragged? How many lives had been lost? How much economic opportunities have flown away because of the conflict? Most of all, how much has government spent for bullets, bombs and other war material in the effort to end this conflict through force?”
Aside from the establishment of attached agencies to MAFAR, BARMM’s agriculture master plan will also increase the agriculture and fisheries productivity in the region.
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, has a poverty incidence of 70 percent were also included in the master plan.
The roadmap will also facilitate the titling of lands to end conflicts among different clans and establish a food security plan, which would make the region self-sufficient in food.
MAFAR is currently headed by Mohamad Yacob, who said the crafting of the agriculture master plan was a historical moment for his region.