By JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL
Bureau Chief, Metro Manila News Bureau
The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) had successfully launched its “MinDA Tienda Goes To Manila” at Kartilya ng Katipunan Park here in Ermita, Manila recently.
The activity was graced by Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko” Moreno Domagoso, MinDA Chairman Emmanuel Piñol, Manila City Vice Mayor Maria Sheilah ‘Honey’ Lacuna-Pangan, and Surigao del Norte’s Cabadbaran City Mayor Judy C. Amante.
The successful Tienda ended last Sunday, 25 October 2020.
Fresh fruits like durian, marang, mangosteen, and many others from Mindanao were brought by Piñol and his staff from MinDA to Manila and were sold at very affordable prices.
As this developed, MinDA will launch a new project which will be the Philippine Food Skyway that will involve the transporting of perishable goods from Mindanao not only fresh fruits but also seafoods from the different provinces of Mindanao. This will be hauled by cargo plane. Indeed, this will by a ‘silly dream come true,’ according to MinDA chief Secretary Piñol.
“I sealed an agreement with a new Air Cargo Company to provide logistical support for the shipment of goods from Mindanao to any part of the country,” Piñol said.
He said Iranian businessman Amir Mogadasshi, Chief Execuive Officer of PSI Air 2007 Corporation, has agreed to partner with the MinDA in pushing the MinDa Tienda Program which aims to market Mindanao products.
“This is the realization of my long-time dream of connecting the farmers and fishermen of Mindanao to the big market by air,” Piñol emphasized.
“As early as the days when I was Governor of North Cotabato, I had envisioned a program which I called the Philippine Food Skyway, a concept on food positioning and distribution which took into consideration the reality that we are a country of 7,500 islands connected only by old and unreliable sea vessels and mainly passenger planes,” he added.
Piñol noted that he always believed that the food supply problem in the country is not caused by insufficient production but the lack of access by farmers and fishermen to the market.
He explained the concept proposed the establishment of feeder airports in key food production areas of the country and the involvement of the private sector in providing cargo planes to ferry perishable goods to the population centers.
He added that fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and even meat could be easily transported using cargo planes.
“Imagine how much fish could be shipped from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, how much fruits during the season could be flown out of Central Mindanao and the Davao Provinces and how much vegetables could be brought to the markets of Cebu and Metro Manila on a daily basis?”, asked Piñol.
He said when farmers and fishermen know that they have a market for their produce and they profit from their work, they will certainly produce more crops and catch more fish.
However, he lamented some of the fiercest critics derided the concept and called it a “stupid idea,” a criticism based mainly on the assumption that transporting food items by aircraft would be very expensive.
According to the MinDA chief many scoffed at the proposal but businessman Archibald Po, who owns Lion Air and a personal friend of President Rody Duterte, said “he would help me realize the project.”
In fact he added that Archie arranged a meeting between him and PSI Air 2007 CEO Amir Mogadasshi whose company owns two Boeing 727 Cargo Planes used for local hauls.
He revealed that during the meeting at the Dusit Hotel in Makati City, Amir and himself sealed a deal with PSI Air accommodating the first shipment of 20 tons of fruits for the second day of the recently held MinDA Tienda in Manila.
He said with a maximum capacity of 24-metric tons, the group is looking at a P30 to P35 per kilo rate for the transport of goods.
“This is a workable number considering that in Talakag, Bukidnon, traders buy the farmers Carrots at P10 per kilo during peak harvest season; Brocolli and Cauliflower P15 per kilo; Cabbage P12 per kilo; Lettuce P20 per kilo,” according to Piñol.
He said in Tawi-Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, fish is sold by “tumpok” which weighs over 1 kilo for less than P100.
“So, even if you add another P35 per kilo for transport and handling, Carrots could still be sold in the big cities for no more than P100,” Piñol added.
“I am confident the numbers will prove me right and the long-dreamed Philippine Food Skyway will be finally realized,” he likewise said.
Soon, fresh fish from Tawi-Tawi, Lettuce from Bukidnon, eggplants from South Cotabato and fruits from Davao will be in the dining table of families in Metro Manila.
MinDA Tienda could go to as far as Tuguegarao, Cagayan or Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
Last Monday, Pinol met with Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong to finalize the staging of the 2nd MinDA Fruit Festival in Baguio City by November.
To bring Mindanao fruits to Baguio City from Davao, PSI Air Boeing 727 will fly to the San Fernando Airport in La Union.
From there, it will just be a one-hour trip to Baguio City.
This will be the beginning of a new era for Mindanao’s farmers and fishermen when they will get a fair reward for burning their skin under the heat of the sun, according to the MinDA Chief who is a farmer in real life.
“For me, this will be a dream come true – connecting the Philippines by air and ensuring a stable food supply for the country,” Piñol further said. (JIJ)