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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Olutanga, a 20,000-hectare island which for ages was known as a Pirates hiding place, will soon become a major tourism destination in the Southern Philippines with white sand beaches along an 89-kilometer coastline, snorkeling and diving sites and spear-fishing as its main come-ons.

The mayors and stakeholders of the three towns of the island which belongs to Zamboanga Sibugay, Olutanga, Mabuhay and Talusan, drew a virtual picture of how they would like Olutanga to be in the next five years during the 2-day planning workshop to craft a Master Plan of Development for the long-neglected island which is the biggest in the Moro Gulf and the 34th largest in the country.

The tourism sites will include Pulo Lawom or islet with deep water, Pulo Mabaw or islet with shallow water and the famous Snake island, where sea snakes abound.

It will also boost its production of high value aqua and fisheries products, especially the fish cage farming of the expensive "Lapulapu" or Grouper which has a natural spawning area in the island.

Officials of the three towns in the island also agreed to jointly develop their dried fish-making, the seaweed and coconut industry.

Mayors Arthur Ruste of Olutanga, Dr. Lulu Caloñge of Mabuhay and Orlando Ramiso of Talusan accepted the proposal of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) which facilitated the planning workshop to organize a common Tourism Development Council for the island.

Addressing security concerns which had placed the island among the high-risk areas in the region, the three mayors committed P1.5-M to be used in building high-speed security boats to be used by both the Army and the police in patrolling the seas surrounding the island.

Additional patrol bases of both the Army and the PNP were also identified while the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) pledged to provide a meager counterpart through fund sourcing.

The three mayors also agreed to address two very important facilities to prepare for the development of the island into a tourism destination, namely power and water.

For water supply, the three towns agreed to jointly develop spring sources in the town of Mabuhay while identifying and developing water catchment areas and gulleys where mini-dams could be built.

To provide sufficient power for the island, the three mayors accepted the MinDA proposal to explore the possibility of establishing a Solar Farm which will be owned by the three towns to provide power for the whole island.

At the sidelines of the planning workshop, MinDA facilitated the organization of the Infrastucture Monitoring and Advisory Group which would monitor the construction and implementation of the P1-B Alicia-Olutanga Road Project and the bridge which would connect the island to the mainland.

The IMAG includes the provincial government, the construction company, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the religious sector, the barangay chairmen and the mayors of the four towns where the projects are being implemented.

At the end of the 2-day planning workshop, all the stakeholders signed a pledge of commitment to implement the identified plans and programs within the next 5 years.

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032421 4

by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region will implement the Mindanao Development Authority-initiated Livestock Development Program with all of its five provinces as the pilot areas of Cattle Fattening Facilities.

These provinces are expected to produce the first banner product of the region, Bangsamoro Halal Beef, which is expected to be launched before the end of the year.

Bangsamoro Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) Mohammad Yacob sought MinDA's technical assistance in implementing the program in the Autonomous Region during the signing of the Memorandum of Technical Cooperation between the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the Bangsamoro Development Authority (BDA) on Thursday, March 18 in Davao City.

The signing of the MinDA-MAFAR-BDA memorandum of technical cooperation was witnessed by Australian Ambassador to the Phiippines Steven Robinson who assured the BARMM officials of his country's support for the Bangsamoro Cattle Development Program.

Yacob and BDA Chairman Mangontawar Macacuna said cattle production in the region is a priority project because the region is a huge consumer of beef, especially during the annual Qurban, the ritual sacrifice of a livestock animal during Eid al-Adha.

For this year's Qurban, over 1,000 heads of cattle are expected to be slaughtered and the meat shared with Muslim communities all over the region.

Muslims also mark special family and community occasions by slaughtering cattle or goats.

By establishing Cattle Fattening Facilities in each of the five provinces of the BARMM, the beef requirements of the local population would be served, Yacob said.

The project designed by MinDA will also create allied activities like corn and sorghum production, silage-making and leather making.

For the five pilot Cattle Feedlot Facilities, an estimated 5,000 heads of Cows and steers will be imported from Australia to be fattened and slaughtered after 100 days.

Initially, the first feedlot will be established near the Triple A Halal Abattoir built by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Cotabato City.

Before the end of the year, the Bangsamoro Cattle Program will introduce the Bangsamoro Halal Beef, produced from cattle fattened and slaughtered in the region, which will be initially marketed locally.

The program will later target the huge Halal Market in the BIMP-EAGA area and later Muslim countries in the Middle East.

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032421 2

by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

One will never appreciate the beauty and the vast potentials of Olutanga Island unless he ventures into what was once a feared Pirates' lair and kidnapers hiding place.

I travelled to Olutanga Island on Sept. 1 last year taking a 3-hour sea journey using a "Kumpit" from Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur.

After an evening face-to-face meeting with the local leaders and the people to talk about their fears and their dreams, I stayed overnight.

The following morning, Olutanga Mayor Arthur Ruste Sr. brought me on a boat ride to two smaller islands - Pulo Mabaw (Islet with Shallow Waters) and Pulo Lawom (Islet with Deep Waters).

Both could be divers' dreamed paradise where they could find Lobsters and other high value fish in pristine corals with blue waters.

I fell in love with Olutanga and since then, I have been there three times.

Tomorrow will be my fourth engagement with the leaders and stakeholders of the three towns in the island - Olutanga, Talusan and Mabuhay.

For two days, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) will guide them in crafting a Master Plan which would transform the Island into a tourism and agri-aqua production area.

Included in the Master Plan would be security strategies to erase its image as a Pirates' Lair.

After Olutanga, MinDA will move to another area in a tactical and strategic move to "liberate" people from fear and poverty.

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032421 3

by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Davao City - The Mindanao Development Authority program to transform Mindanao into a major beef production area for the country received a big boost yesterday with the commitment of support from the Australian government.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson, in a meeting with officials of MinDA yesterday, lauded the Mindanao Livestock Development Progam which aims to establish cattle fattening facilities in the different provinces of the region.

He said a large-scale cattle fattening program which would include processing and packaging would have cascading benefits on the silage and feeds production industry of Mindanao.

Ambassador Robinson said Australia could provide technical assistance in the establishment of modern abattoirs and tanneries.

The Cattle Production component of the Mindanao Livestock Development Program involves the fattening of locally procured Cattle in feedlots to be operated by local government units as Economic Enterprise Projects.

The Program also aims to import from Australia's Northern Territory culled cows and steers which will be fattened in feedlots using silage and feeds produced by local farmers and slaughtered in abattoirs to be established strategic areas of Mindanao.

The long-term program involves the establishment of breeder farms and the upgrading of the local cattle population through Artificial Insemination and Embryo Transfer.

The fattening protocol will be introduced by outstanding OFW Arnel Corpuz, MinDA's livestock program consultant who spent 11 years in Australia's Wagyu Feedlots.

The program will be tied to the Sorghum and Corn Industry Development Program pushed by MinDA.

The Development Bank of the Philippines, MinDA's financing partner, will be tapped to support the LGUs' funding requirements for the project.

During the engagement yesterday, Ambassador Robinson and the MinDA Chairman agreed to craft the terms of engagement between MinDA and the government of the Northern Territory of Australia where most of the cows and the steers are expected to come from.

MinDA sought the support of the Australia government in ensuring a sustained supply of cattle for fattening and also technical assistance in the establishment of modern abattoirs and tanneries to create a new industry in Mindanao, leather making.

The program is expected to be launched before June this year, in time for the onset of the winter season in Australia when ranchers are expected to sell their culled cows and steers.

The MinDA Livestock Development Program aims to boost food production in Mindanao to achieve food self-sufficiency and also contribute to the supply of meat for the rest of the country.

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032421 1

by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Maluso, Basilan - The Bajaus of Basilan, who belong to the seafaring tribe often stereo-typed as beggars, are turning out to be master weavers of some of the most beautiful mats and bags made out of Pandan leaves that I had ever seen.

On Tuesday, during a quick visit to Maluso town arranged by Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Asst. Secretary Cherry Akbar and Maluso Vice Mayor Al Yasin, I met with the Bajau weavers in a facility established by the Claretian Order of the Catholic Church.

About 20 Bajau women are being assisted by the Bajau Samal Foundation of the Bajau Apostolate of the Basilan Prelature.

Fr. Efren Decreto, a Claretian missionary, said by weaving Pandan leaves which are made into colorful mats and bags, the Bajau women earn a decent income.

The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) had been asked to assist the program by providing additional sources of income for the Bajaus like dried fish making.

Fr. Efren said he saw my post on Facebook about the Steam-Powered Fish Drying Facility established in Olutanga, Zamboanga Sibugay and said that facility would greatly help the Bajaus.

MinDA will return to Basilan soon to look into ways to assist the long-neglected people of the sea and support the Basilan Prelature's program of giving them decent sources of income.

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