by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

When I was Governor of North Cotabato, I invited then Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman to visit the Capital City of Kidapawan after a conference in Davao City.

Instead of taking the national highway, I brought her through the rough and rugged roads from Calinan District to Arakan and then to Kidapawan City.

When we were on a vantage point in Arakan Valley, I got off the vehicle and asked Sec. Soliman to get off, as well.

Then, I pointed to her the vast areas of rich undulating agricultural lands which were untouched with only "buyo-buyo" shrubs and grass growing.

Poor families live there, I told her, and the only thing that they need from government is guidance on what to plant, seeds, water, a small road and perhaps a few concrete overflows or bridges to bring their produce to the market and a fair price for their produce.

Of course, nothing really changed to the lives of the people of Arakan even with that exposure trip I led Sec. Soliman to. But then again, she was Social Welfare Secretary and I did not expect much.

Under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, a lot of good things have already been done, especially in the rural areas of Mindanao.

There is still a lot of things to be done.

When I resigned from the Dept. of Agriculture last year, the Farm to Market Road backlog was about 12,000-kilometers.

Less than half of the 4.9-million hectares of rice harvest area is irrigated.

So much more could have been done if only some of our development planners and economic managers would cross and explore the countryside.

I would be happy to lead them to the places I have been to and make them understand that a simple tweaking of our development priorities could enable Mindanao to produce enough food for the whole country.

Today, for example, a technical team from the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) will start the geo-tagging and aerial mapping of four towns in Bukidnon - Impasugong, Talakag, Sumilao and Lantapan (IMTASULA) - where an estimated 50,000-hectares could be utilized for vegetable and high value crop production.

The team will identify rivers, creeks as sources of water, areas which need roads and watershed areas which must be protected.

With irrigation water and roads, IMTASULA, along with the Cordillera in the north, could produce vegetables more than what the country needs.

That is just one tiny dot in the map of Mindanao. There are many more areas in the Caraga Region, Zamboanga Peninsula, the Bangsamoro, Central Mindanao and Northern Mindanao.

Rich soil, clean coastal waters, ideal climate with hardly any typhoon year round, these are the advantages of Mindanao.

What does Mindanao need?

Small farm roads and bridges, water for irrigation, continuous technology training, available financing and of course, access to the market with a fair price.

We have to tweak some of our programs.

Maybe, instead of excavating and repaving still usable concrete highways, funds should be focused on farm to market roads and bridges.

Instead of allocating over P100-B in dole outs, people should be taught and trained on micro-enterprise and livelihood projects.

That would only be possible if the people prioritizing and apportioning funds for specific government programs would trek trails, cross creeks and rivers and climb mountains.

Mindanao could feed the whole country and even more but only if...

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