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Mindanao peace could give fillip to Filipino food production

By RJ Whitehead , 16-Oct-2012

The prospect of lasting peace in the southern Philippines will make it easier for the government to boost agricultural production by 3.5% to 5% next year, a senior government official has revealed.

The agriculture secretary, Proceso J. Alcala, remarked that President Aquino had told him that this week’s signing of a framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would mean more work for the agriculture department.

Hitherto untapped potential

The island Mindanao has long been regarded as a potential food basket for the Philippines. Analysts say that its suitability for growing food is increased because tropical storms usually pass by the region.

But because of the peace and order situation in the south of the country, investors have shied away from Mindanao, making it difficult to harness its potential for food production.

"It was a chicken and egg [problem]. Some were waiting for [Mindanao] to be peaceful before setting up there, but the Aquino administration believed that there could be no peace until our brothers in Mindanao had jobs," Alcala said.

The secretary added that the government will allocate more funds to the southern Philippines next year so it can build the necessary infrastructure to enable it to make a significant contribution to food output in the country.

Earmarked for a big budget

"It is possible that more than 40% of the budget allocated for the farm sector may go to Mindanao next year," he said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said lasting peace in Mindanao could hold the key to food self-sufficiency in the country.

"There is so much untapped potential in the region, and this could fill the gaps in our efforts at attaining food security. The agriculture and fisheries sector can also uplift the lives of the Bangsamoro people and kickstart the economy in Mindanao," he said.

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