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Progress seen to ease 2009 carnage misery

Ampatuan, Maguindanao – The pain of being in the site of the gruesome 2009 carnage is expected to diminish following the development of the surrounding area into a productive community.

This developed after partnering local and foreign investors launched on Friday their long-conceived banana farming project for thousands of hectares of mostly idle lands surrounding the site of the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 people at Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman here – aiming to turn the horrific area into a complex of halal foods.

Investors Gonzalo Ordenana and Michael Coote, representing Malaysia’s UNIVEX, signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with local counterparts Ed Balliser and Abdulwahid Sumaoang of the Al Mujahidun Agro Resources Development, Inc. (ARMADI), signaling the start of the farming activities for some 1,500 hectares.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and Town Mayor Rasul Sangki, who also signed the MOA as principal overseers during the launching rites at the Municipal Hall here, hailed the agricultural venture as another springboard of bringing the province to greater heights.

The investors would initially open next week some 6,000 hectares of the project target coverage with a capital of $2,800 per hectare, and offered priority employment preference for members of families owning the lands, the governor said.

He disclosed that some of the project-covered lands are owned by families of combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Ordenana, a Costa Rican serving as UNIVEX country representative and director, said his group was first hesitant to come to Maguindanao due to its “negative image.”

He said his group was also interested in helping Moro people to attain a productive life.

“We believe they are able entrepreneurs and catalysts for progress,” Ordenana said, referring in specific to their Moro counterparts belonging to the partner AMARDI group.