COTABATO CITY—To help revive the banana plantation in the area of Buldon, Maguindano, big exporters of Cavendish banana held an on-site visit in the area on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.
Some key officials of Regional Bangsamoro Board of Investments (BBOI) accompanied the UNIFRUTTI Philippines, JICA financing facility, and Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation (HARVEST) Project.
UNIFRUTTI Philippines Chief Executive Officer Roberto Bacani and JICA HARVEST Project Consultant Engr. Merly Cruz visited to assist the plantation for its immediate reopening thru export market assurance and loan opportunities.
According to Board of Investment Chairman Atty. Ishak Mastura, the 150-hectare banana plantation ran by Iranun Premier Agri-Ventures Corporation (IPAC), which previously produced bulk of Cavendish variety of banana for almost four years, was no longer operational and the need to revive it is necessary.
“The operation of IPAC before generates both employment in our localities and increased living conditions. Let us look for any possibilities and initiatives to reopen the plantation thru the help of UNIFRUTTI Philippines for market assurance abroad and the JICA loan assistance,” Mastura said.
Human Resource Officer Evelyn Dirangaren said more than 600 workers were employed in the said plantation. Most of them were former combatants.
“Due to demand in workforces during the operation, we employed not only men and women living within the municipality of Buldon, but also from nearby municipalities of Barira, Parang, and as far as Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao,” Dirangaren added.
She further stressed that if ever the banana plantation will operate again, more progress in the community will be underway.
During the period of operation, the plantation benefitted more or less two (2) thousand poor farmers in the area in which many of them rely on planting corn, upland rice, vegetable and fruit bearing trees as their main source of their livelihood.
IPAC President and former Vice-Mayor of Buldon Hadji Nasrudin Maluag said, “Few months during our operation, we saw our workers driving bicycle. Months later, it shifted to motorcycles, and in just 2 years, our workers are already driving multi-cabs. Thus, the operation of our banana plantation before really helped our poor farmers improve their living condition.”
A 64-year-old farmer, Embi Kantar, former worker in the banana plantation and former combatant said: “It was considered a blessing for us here when the banana plantation operated because we received our wages every week. As a source of our livelihood, we did not experience some shortages in our daily living as compared before [cultivating corn and other commodities] which sometimes, failure or over drop occurred.”
Kantar mentioned, “for the past years of operation, we have produced more than 10 professionals from our family. Indeed, we owe it to the banana production which helped in paying their school fees and matriculation.”
Meanwhile, Kalid Bura, 32, also a farmer and worker of IPAC shared: “There were many changes that took place in our area because of the operation of banana plantation before. A young former combatant like me became busy in work at that time. I focused most of the time assuring how my family could live peacefully.”
Both Kantar and Bura were hopeful that the re-operation of the plantation may immediately be restored with the help of JICA and UNIFRUTTI Philippines with the facilitation of Regional BBOI.
“Our initiative and collective effort to restore and re-operate again the IPAC banana plantation could help increase the regional economy while improving the lives of our constituents,” Board of Investment Governor Mohamad Pasigan said.
“If the IPAC will operate again, we are expecting 150 hectares or expanding to 250 hectares of plantation in the area which could generate Php500 million worth of investments,” Pasigan added. (Kasan M. Usop, Jr./BIO)