By ALI G. MACABALANG
BULUAN, Maguindanao, Philippines – A Saudi Arabian agro-industrial firm is investing $1.2 billion to cultivate an initial 2,000 hectares of idle lands in Maguindanao for the production of banana and root crops that are highly in demand in their oil-rich nation.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu announced this “good news” at a press conference in prelude to the launching here Friday of the 1st Sagayan Festival, which he and organizers have crafted extensively to showcase the bright side of the province, and create a situation conducive to peace and productivity.
Mangudadato said he and President Aquino had already made initial talks with the Arabian investors, whom he described as very keen to jump off the preparatsion of pilot areas involving 2,000 hectares before the end of this month or early next month.
He said the prospected areas are located here, and in Ampatuan, Abdulllah Sangki, Datu Odin Sinsuat, and other towns in Maguindanao.
The governor said the landowners of the prospected areas have already agreed to lend their lands in the joint farming venture that would allow their family members to work and earn an equitable share.
Initially, he said, the 2,000-hectare pilot area will generate employment for some 2,000 workers, each of them will tend one hectare.
Another incentive, Magudadatu said, is the provision of scholarships to the children of farm workers in any secondary or tertiary schools of their choice in Mindanao.
“In a nutshell, the farming venture will directly address poverty, illiteracy problem, and the inutility of huge lands in Maguindanao at the same time,” he said.
Citing government statistics, Mangudadatu said Maguindanao has some 324,000 hectares of idle lands and is saddled by high poverty and illiteracy incidents.