Mr. Wahid Maneged, 42, president of Barangay Campo Bangsamoro Agriculture Cooperative (BCBAC) at Panosolen, in General Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao, shared in an interview that he sold his gun to be able to register his cooperative.
“Binenta ko po ang baril ko upang maipatayo at marehisto ang aming kooperatiba. Hinikayat ko rin ang mga kasamahan ko na maghanap buhay kasi hindi lahat ng BIAF ay kuwalipikadong magtrabaho sa opisina,” said Maneged, who is also a concurrent commander of Moro Islamic Liberation Front – Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF).
[I sold my gun to build and register our cooperative. I also encouraged my fellow Mujahideens to earn for a living because not all BIAFs are qualified to work in the office.]
Maneged recalled his past experience and said he was on fourth grade when he joined the MILF until he became a brigade commander under inner guard.
He said their place has been a battlefield during the inception of the ILAGA (Visayan term for rat) movement known for their brutal massacres towards Moros.
“Peace was elusive until recently,” he said emotionally.
During the onset of MILF-led interim Bangsamoro Government, Maneged said he became hopeful when he heard the advice of the Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim, saying that BIAF combatants would hardly be accepted in the office but they have an option to create an association.
Coconut oil in a bottle
He accepted the challenge and attended various training workshops on how to create a cooperative specializing in virgin coconut oil packaged in a bottle.
“Ang pinili naming produkto ay Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) [dahil] madami ang niyugan sa lugar na ito at marami na rin kaming nabenta,” Maneged said.
[We’ve chosen virgin coconut oil as our product because there are plenty of coconuts in this area and we have already sold a lot.]
On Thursday, Feb. 24, Mr. Meneged’s cooperative received a one-unit processing area and equipment worth of Php1-million from the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), in line with its objective which is to aid performing non-government organizations (NGOs).
Maneged thanked MOST Minister Engr. Aida Silongan, saying, “salamat sa walang sawang pagtulong sa amin, hindi lamang pinansyal, pati na rin sa pagbibigay ng various kinds of training. Nung manual pa ang aming gamit, ang weekly na kinikita namin ay nasa Php4,000.00. Sa ngayon ay triple na.”
[Thank you for tirelessly helping us, not only financially, but also for providing various kinds of training. When we were still using the manual equipment, our weekly income was Php4,000.00. Now, it has tripled.]
“I will give you additional cash worth of Php50,000.00 for the purchase of transformer as the electricity is irregular in this area,” Minister Silongan offered due to budget constraints faced by the cooperative.
On Wednesday, Feb. 23, another turnover of the same processing equipment was given to Al-Mustaqbal Development Center Association in Paglat, Maguindanao. The cooperative’s products are native delicacies.
Accordingly, before, they sold around Php5,000.00 weekly, but through this new equipment, it is projected to increase by Php10,000.00 to Php15,000.00.
Silongan said, “it has a great impact on this community as they are mostly MILF leaders and members. Somehow, it generates employment and modest income.”
Meanwhile, Coop Vice-President Jainodin C. Baclid, 52, who was originally from Lakobe Makilala North Cotabato and has been driven out from his land by the so-called New People’s Army (NPA), said, “as a Mujahideen, it is hard to cross the livelihood if there is no work.”
“Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah), with the help of MOST, we have crossed the challenges and, in some way, livelihood is rising,” he said.
Now, Baclid is sheltered in Datu Paglat by MILF colleague headed by Brig. Commander Hamdan Abdullah.
“We are thankful to BARMM, our products have improved. I am here with my family, we are from outside of core territory, but we are benefitting, it means that BARMM is inclusive,” said Baclid.
In retrospect, the Bangsamoro leaders vow to remain active and hopeful that positive change will happen to former combatants who have now returned to the fold of the law.
(Majid Nur/BIO_Photo courtesy of BCBAC)