By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is heading efforts to reopen two huge banana plantations in Maguindanao province that used to employ some 4,000 workers, including former Moro rebels, MinDA Chairman Manny Piñol announced this week.
Sec. Piñol’s announcement came with a reported warning from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) about a potential adversity in the continued displacement of workers from the closure of Al Sahar and La Fruttera plantations in Talayan and Datu Paglas, respectively.
The banana plantations, owned by Filipino-American John Perrine, ceased operations two years ago following economic difficulties and lack of operational funds, both critical factors spawned reportedly by intermittent intrusion of ISIS-inspired armed groups, it was learned.
During his visit to Maguindanao’s 6th Infantry Division Headquarters on May 11, following a brief siege of Datu Paglas town market building by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) combatants on May 8, President Rody Duterte directed MinDA to work on the reopening of the plantations, Piñol recalled.
The President also tasked MinDA to coordinate with other agencies, including the social welfare agencies in Region XII and the Bangsamoro region, to ensure that the displaced farm workers are given “food assistance until they are back to work.”
MinDA, Piñol said, has identified a new investor willing to take over the two plantations from the Perrine Group and reopen the farms.
On Wednesday, Pinol added, he met with Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) President Emmanuel Herbosa to thresh out the details of the financial loan package which the bank would grant to revive the banana farms with a total area of over 1,500 hectares.
MinDA would organize the next day a virtual conference between DBP officials, the new investors group and other stakeholders to finally resolve the minor issues.
When this is done, MinDA will make a final report and recommendations to the President within the month of June, Pinol said in a Facebook post without elaboration. AGM