By Armando Fenequito Jr.
DAVAO CITY – The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) sees that the Spanish sardines industry could help reduce poverty incidence, and improve the lives of the people in Zamboanga del Norte.
This was bared by MinDA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol in a statement.
Piñol said that, after a series of visits, he noted that Zamboanga del Norte has a 500-kilometer coastline facing one of the country’s richest fishing grounds, the Sulu Sea where the “Tamban” or the Sardines fish literally jump to the shore right after a three-month closed fishing season which runs from December to the end of February of every year.
“I have always believed that the poverty incidence level is the best barometer of effective governance but at the same time I am convinced that empowerment and capacitation, instead of dole-outs, should be the guiding policy in addressing poverty,” he said.
He said that a target has been set for Zamboanga del Norte to be taken out of the list of the country’s 20 poorest provinces in five years’ time.
“This is the formula that we will embrace; identify the strengths of an area, develop and strengthen it and set a target and timetable. This will be the same formula which we will use as we wade into the ring in the fight against poverty in the other provinces of Mindanao,” he added.
Piñol said he urged the workers of the agency that even as they pursue such big ticket projects like the Mindanao Railway System, economic zones and others, the poverty incidence in the different provinces should also be given focus.
“Discover the strengths and resources of each province and use those as the foundations in building a people-based economy which could withstand the shifting political sands. This was my marching order to the MinDA staff,” he said.
” I have decided to establish a MinDA satellite office in Roxas, Zamboanga del Norte because I believe that if we really would like to fight poverty, we should jump inside the ring and do the fighting,” Piñol added.
He said that the making of bottled Spanish sardines, which is premium compared to the canned sardines with tomato sauce, has long been a home industry in the province but the lack of access to the market of fishermen’s families prevented the industry from attaining its full potentials in improving people’s lives.
“The thrust now is to organize the wives and daughters of fishermen and improve their skills in making Spanish Sardines while supporting them with the basic equipment and infrastructure for the industry,” he said.
Piñol also said that the wife of Zamboanga del Norte Governor Roberto Uy, former Dipolog City Mayor Evelyn Uy, has already provided the template as she succeeded in organizing Dipolog’s women into a Spanish Sardines production crew.
“She established the processing facility along with the equipment and provided them with everything needed to produce bottled Spanish Sardines which she buys and sells to a hungry market. MinDA will work on this with the help of other line agencies of government, including its partner ODAs who have been involved in the peace and development efforts in Mindanao,” he said.
Piñol said MinDA will assist the poor fishing families in the coastal areas, as MinDA will craft programs for those living in the agricultural and upland areas of the 700,000-hectare province.
He said tree farming, along with high value products like cacao, coffee, mango, abaca and others could also help reduce poverty in the hinterlands of the province.
“In our consultative meetings with the leaders of the province, it was agreed that MinDA will partner with the local government unit in implementing these programs,” he said.