By Ali G. Macabalang
TARAKA, Lanao del Sur – Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chairman Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol has vowed continuity in a collective vision to turn this town into the country’s “Muslim mode” in agro-industrial enterprise starting from enhanced rice farming backed by modern solar-powered irrigation systems.
“I will not abandon you. We will not stop…until we see what we have begun collectively to start to turn into fruition,” Sec. Piñol said in a lunch meeting here capping the initial inauguration of the P218-million solar-powered irrigation system (SPIS) here on August 10.
Sec. Piñol pointed out that one of reasons behind the failure of past major state projects was the “absence of follow through” efforts.
He said the MinDA in partnership with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will continue to rally this town to become the model of agro-economic enterprise in the country.
The SPIS project covers six units of irrigation systems, two of which were commissioned or opened last Tuesday to water at least 700 hectares of farm lands and enable farmers to plant rice to a maximum of three times a year. It comes with supplies of hybrid seeds known for optimum harvest volumes.
The six SPIS systems are built in barangays Salvador, Mangayao, Bukalan, Moriatao-a-lokes-a-datu, Malungen, and Lumasa, all farming villages here seen by visitors and journalists in dormant stages.
Sec. Piñol and DBP president Emmanuel Herbosa took turns in assuring continued assistance to help Taraka regain stable mass rice production that can evolve into proper product packaging into halal rice saleable across Lanao del Sur, in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and elsewhere in the country.
“The entire process, if successful, can make Taraka the ‘first Muslim town’ to produce packed high quality halal rice in the country,” Piñol said, adding that organic inputs and fertilizers to be used in rice farming are free of elements or chemicals that may be haram.
Thousands of residents would have witnessed the August 10 event here if not of the social movement-restraining Coronavirus pandemic protocols. But dozens of residents and local elected officials were seen shedding “tears of joy” in different rites.
Taraka town Mayor Nashiba Gandamra-Sumagayan was seen teary eyed for the nth time, three times on Aug. 10.
“I can’t help but rejoice inside me with tears…we see initial success in our dream to revive massive rice production and bring our town greater heights,” told The Philippine Muslim Today news in mixed Pilipino and Maranao dialect.
Before the repressive Marcos Martial Law era, this town was one of over 20 towns making Lanao del Sur the rice granary in central and northern Mindanao. But abusive soldiers forced Maranao farmers to flee to urban cities like Metro Manila where many of them turned traders. Some of the abandoned lands were reportedly grabbed.
Asked to comment on “anti-Muslim” tag imputed on Piñol for his role in the abrogated inking of the government’s pact on ancestral domain with the Moro Liberation Front in 2008 due to lack of prior coordination, Mayor Sumagayan said: “As far as we are concerned, that (accusation) was unfair.”
Sec. Piñol would not risk himself going to conservative Muslim areas like Lanao del Sur if he is guilty of conscience, the lady mayor hinted.
In separate interviews, a female resident and an elderly farmer said they saw in Piñol “the big heart” for Muslims who are striving for greater heights in decent life.
The lady mayor recalled how they came to know Sec. Piñol, starting with the participation of Taraka delegation, she and her husband-Vice Mayor Odin Sumagayan led, in the launch of MinDA’s SPIS and waterworks system program on Dec. 6, 2019 in Davao City.
She said Sec. Piñol promptly accepted her team’s request to avail of the program, making them the first LGU in the country to volunteer for a self-help-promoting venture.
On January 14, 2020, Piñol and his team cruised at least 500 kilometers from Davao City towards here to check the viability of modern irrigation and farming methods under the SPIS and water works program, and conduct orientation.
Town residents were longing to revive massive rice production with systematic irrigation methods and at the same time transform the Taraka River into a source of potable drinking water. Both clamors could be squarely addressed by the MinDA Water Program, Piñol recalled.
In March of same year, the MinDA used a minibus and brought from here the Sumagayans and their subordinates for ocular tour of the small-scale module of solar-powered irrigation system in M’lang, North Cotabato and other farms in nearby provinces.
Technical people in the Taraka LGU were later assisted by MinDA experts in crafting the feasibility project, which the DBP granted with a P218-million loan for six units of solar-powered irrigation system and one water supply system unit in this town, published reports said.
On January 21 this year, Sec. Piñol and DPB president Herbosa alongside their parties launched the construction of the SPIS and waterworks systems here, during which the lady mayor was seen shedding “tears of joy” for the first time.
Last Aug. 10, roughly six months after the launch, the same people with more regional and national officials converged here to inaugurate two of the six SPIS units, witnessing the waters unleashed from big pipes powered by giant solar panels built nearby.
The additional dignitaries included DBP Director Jeanie Sandoval and field officials, PhilRice Director Sailila Abdula, BARMM Agriculture Deputy Minister Amal Solaiman, and dozens others from different agencies.
An elderly resident drank from the outpouring water with obvious confidence for drinking river liquid in his lifetime.
But Sec. Piñol that the Solar-Powered Water System with a Filtration Facility for drinking water is expected to be completed by November this year.
Tuesday’s (Aug. 10’s) event here showcased a higher degree of actualization, with Mayor Sumagayan shedding tears twice, and the partnering MinDA and DPP officials turning more enthusiastic.
In a separate event in Naawan, Misamis Oriental the next day, Pinol and Herbosa reiterated assurance for continuity in all projects they jointly initiated, especially the SPIS and waterworks filtration projects.
“I will not leave projects hanging. We will continue until reaching the successful stages,” Sec. Piñol said as Misamis Oriental Governor Bambi Emano and other local officials kept encouraging to run for Senator.
Agriculture development advocates in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao organized a social media movement titled “Sec. Pinol for Senator” with over 70,000 members so far.
Piñol said he felt “flattered” by the clamor, adding he would beg off in favor of continued stay in executive office “to make difference” in the litany of many palliative government projects and programs. (AGM)