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In line with its push for enhancing agriculture value chain and the use of renewable energy, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) unveiled today two energy projects aimed at increasing agricultural productivity in off-grid areas in Mindanao with sustainable and resilient energy sources.

Among the projects showcased at the Mindanao Power Forum 2021 include the Renewable Energy for Tawi-Tawi Seaweeds (RETS) Project, which focuses on solar and diesel hybridization in the seaweed farming municipalities of Sitangkai, Sibutu, Panglima Sugala, and Tandubas.

The project aims to provide electricity access for some 5,000 households and increase seaweeds production in the island province of Tawi-Tawi. The PhP262 million project is being implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in partnership with MinDA, Local Government of Tawi-Tawi, Tawi-Tawi Electric Cooperative (TAWELCO), and BARMM Regional Government.

Another EU-funded program launched during the forum is the PhP 245 million Integration of Productive Uses of Renewable Energy for Sustainable and Inclusive Energization in Mindanao (I-PURE Mindanao), which is designed to help bring inclusive and sustainable economic development in 10 pilot areas, particularly off-grid but agriculturally productive communities through the use of RE solutions for livelihood activities and household energization.

Both projects are funded under the European Union – Access to Sustainable Energy Programme (EU-ASEP), with MinDA, Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) collaborating with the EU to promote energy transition initiatives and inclusive development.

“These projects concretize our efforts to help accelerate agricultural growth while promoting renewable energy deployment in Mindanao,” said MinDA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol during the Mindanao Power Forum which was conducted via online platform.

Attended by nearly over 400 participants, Mindanao Power Forum served as venue to discuss continuing challenges in the power sector, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also highlighted the importance energy transition in building back a better Mindanao that is sustainable and more resilient.

“While our power situation in Mindanao has seen significant improvement in recent years, our way forward needs to look at achieving a regime of long term sustainable and reliable power across the island including the off-grid communities,” Piñol added.

The Mindanao Power Forum 2021 was organized by MinDA through the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee and in partnership with, DOE, Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (AMRECO), UNIDO Philippines, EU-ASEP, BARMM Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy, USAID’s Energy Secure Philippines, and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

What started as just a privately-funded experiment on the use of Pressurized Irrigation for Upland Rice Farming in a small portion of my farm has now become a Mindanao-wide program as institutional support started coming in.

Yesterday, representatives of US Seedworks Philippines came to visit the 460-square meter plot where we set up a rain-type pressurized irrigation system to plant a hybrid upland rice variety, TH 82, which was developed by the company in its fields in India.

In previous trials conducted in the non-irrigated areas of Central Mindanao, TH 82 was planted using the dry-seeding process relying mainly on rain and posted a record harvest of 10.2-metric tons per hectare.

Engr. Rey Cajandig said his company offered to support the project by covering the expenses involved in the development of the pilot farm.

I then asked US Seedworks to support my plan to expand the area of the pilot farms in the next planting season and help establish at least 10 more in different areas in Mindanao.

With this development, MinDA will now make this project one of its programs under the advocacy to improve productivity, reduce poverty and sustain the gains of peace in Mindanao.

The Irrigated Upland Rice Farming Program in Mindanao will now involve MinDA as the lead agency, the Phlippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) Midsayap Field Office and US Seedworks Philippines.

We will be reaching out to organic or mineral fertilizer production companies to complete the team.

In the meantime, we will identify the 10 Pilot Sites preferably in the highlands of Mindanao where farmers traditionally plant upland rice varieties once a year.

The Pilot Farms will be established shortly after the harvest of the traditional upland rice between July and August and technical people will attempt to plant a second cropping for the year using Pressurized Irrigation.

The success of this experiment will have a huge impact on food sufficiency and poverty alleviation programs in the highlands of Mindanao and maybe later in the rest of the country.

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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

The Mindanao Development Authority in partnership with the German Development Agency GIZ and the European Union Delegation will implement starting this year the Mindanao Peace and Development Program which aims to improve agricultural productivity, reduce poverty and support the peace gains of the Duterte Administration in Mindanao.

Last week, the EU Delagation, represented by Xavier Canton, the GIZ and MinDA finalized the details of the MINPAD RISE Program which would involve agriculture and fisheries development programs totaling about P3.1-B.

The virtual meeting last week marked the beginning of a 4-year-period of implementation of the EU Grant Fund and the end of a lengthy negotiations process for loan availment.

The projects identified by MinDA will address poverty, increase productivity and immediately restart the Mindanao economy which MinDA will manage and implement through its development partners, GIZ and World Bank though the Philippine Rural Development Program.

Grains silos and milling facilities for rice and corn production areas, ice plants and cold storages for fishing communities, processing facilities for coconut and possibly a manufacturing facility for Mindanao's natural rubber produce are among the specific projects included in the list of priorities identified by MinDA.

The identification of the projects was made during a planning workshop which included representatives of the different sectors conducted by MinDA since last year.

The loan documents were signed last year by the Philippine Government represented by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and the European Union Delegation led by Charge d'Affairs Thomas Wearning and Enrico Strampelli.

While MinDA is the implementing agency of the Mindanao Peace and Development Rise Program (MinPAD-Rise), the projects will be undertaken by its development partners.

Of the €35.5-M Fund, €20-M will be for projects under the World Bank Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) while the remaining €15.5-M will be handled by the German Development Agency GIZ.

MinDA will organize a Project Management Office (PMO) to identify the projects to be funded and directly supervise and oversee the project implementation.

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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

President Rody Duterte has directed the Mindanao Development Authority to resolve a potentially explosive situation in Central Mindanao after the closure of three huge banana farms dislocated almost 4,000 workers, mostly former rebel combatants.

The President tasked MinDA in initially extending assistance to the displaced workers, most of whom are former fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberatiom Front and the Moro National Liberal Front, while exploring ways to reopen the plantations.

The instructions were issued by the President to the MinDA during the command conference held in Awang, Odin Sinsuat on May 11 following the eruption of atrocities involving the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Paglas and other areas in Maguindanao.

The displaced workers were formerly employed by three banana companies identified with John Perrine whose companies suffered financial difficulties after failing to access loan funds from government financing institutions.

During a Virtual Conference organized by MinDA on May 14, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process warned that the failure of government to resolve the problem could threaten the peace and security in the area.

The OPAPP said that given the volatility of the situation, the displaced former combatants could be vulnerable to the offers of support by the small terror group, BIFF.

During the said conference, the different agencies of government were represented.

Sec. Emmanuel F. Pinol, Usec. Janet M. Lopoz and Asec. Cherry Santos Akbar and the MinDA staff represented MinDA while John Paul Perrine, Chairman, La Fruittera Inc. and Edgar Bullecer, Manager, Paglas Corp., represented the banana companies.

Usec. Ricardo Jalad of the Office for Civil Defense, represented Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and was supported by Dir. Bernardo “Raffy” Alejandro IV, Dir. Minda C. Morante and Susana Quiambao. Director Farrah Grace V. Naparan represented OPAPP while Col. Glenn Caballero, represented OG7, 6 th Inf. Div. Phil. Army.

Usec. Fel Budiongan rerepsented DSWD, along with Dir. Raylindo Aniñon and Bonifacio Silva, Jr. Asst. Reg. Director- DSWD 12

Others who participated were Peter Paul Gomez, DTI, CPAB and Ismail Guiamel, Director, BARMM-MAFAR.

The participating agencies agreed that while MinDA is working on the resolution of the issues involving the revival and rehabilitation of the banana farms, assistance will be extended to displaced workers of the companies.

The DSWD, with the support of MinDA, had already extended food assistance to the displaced workers while other agencies committed support until the resolution of the problem.

MinDA is scheduled to hold today another meeting with the Perrine group to explore options on how to revive the banana farms.

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Secretary Piñol of MinDA, stressed the importance of sustainable agriculture to preserve the environment and develop the local economy.

Hosted by the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), the Mindanao Regional Future Earth Community Mobilization Workshop highlighted various sustainability issues and initiatives.

The event was held via Zoom on April 26 and 28, 2021 with the theme, “Synergizing knowledge and governance for sustainable development in Mindanao in the age of disruptions.” Around 140 representatives from different sectors such as the academe, local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations, and other members of the civil society participated.

“Economies and cultures differ, and societies vary in their needs as well as in opportunities, resources and degrees of development. What then is a better way to be inclusive, responsive, and sustainable if not to go local? There is no other way but to belong,” shared Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay, NRCP Executive Director.

Likewise, national scientist Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz, Future Earth Philippines (FEP) Project Leader, introduced the said program and stressed the importance of regional workshops to better understand the local setting and encourage participation from the ground.

Sustainability researches, case studies in Mindanao

To promote science-based approaches in sustainability implementation, different researches and case studies were presented by NRCP members:

Dr. Anthony C. Sales, Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Region XI Director, presented the “Status of Development Efforts and Implications on Sustainable Development of Mindanao in the Context of the New Normal.” He shared some strategies in building a resilient and sustainable Mindanao such as improving digital infrastructure, and conducting an integrated biodiversity conservation program.

Stressing the issues concerning Lake Lanao, Dr. Sukarno Tanggol, Chancellor of Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), shared the socio-ecological importance of Lake Lanao in his talk, “Lake Lanao Sustainability Challenges, Resources, and Opportunities.” Among the recommendations he cited to preserve the lake are: restoring the degraded forests, conduct of continuous research, and establishment of the Lake Lanao Rehabilitation Center.

Dr. Mario J. Aguja, Professor at MSU-General Santos City, discussed “Sustainable Management of the Ligawasan Marsh Transitional Peace.” He mentioned that addressing the degradation of Ligawasan Marsh entails the resolution of the ongoing conflicts between the government and rebel groups.

With his talk titled, “Sustaining the energy imperatives of Mindanao for development,” Dr. Randell U. Espina, Professor at Ateneo De Davao University, mentioned the potential of Mindanao for renewable energy sources. He enthused the need to optimize the utilization of free water from the river basins through small to medium-sized hydro power plants.

Meanwhile, Dr. Victor B. Amoroso, Professor Emeritus at Central Mindanao University, highlighted the rich flora and fauna of Mindanao in his talk, “Biodiversity Inventory and Conservation Assessment in Mindanao.” He encouraged the participants to create conservation programs, citing that a healthy biodiversity ensures a healthy community.

Government initiatives to promote sustainability

Del Carmen Vice Mayor Alredo M. Coro II presented their activities to conserve the mangrove areas in the island, considered as the largest in the country. He cited ecotourism as one of their strategies given the island’s international reputation as a tourism hub.

Coro also partnered with the NRCP to study the mangroves in Siargao towards generating approaches to preserve them. To address future challenges, Coro proposed the need for a blended finance that would ensure sustainable growth and equitable development in the island.

On the side of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, shared the importance of Mindanao in boosting the country’s agricultural development and how this can be done without compromising the forests. He reiterated the need to connect farming communities to the market and to push for renewable energy sources.

Likewise, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that achieving a sustainable and inclusive economic security entails the strengthening of linkages between markets and production areas.

“We need to establish more physical linkages in Mindanao through building and improving our infrastructure, transport and communication facilities,” added Pimentel III.

Pimentel also underscored the need to generate sustainable jobs for the communities and to promote peace and security.

Indigenous Peoples as stewards of Mindanao’s environment

Stressing the critical role of indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao’s sustainability, Timuey Jimid P. Mansayagan, a Manobo tribal leader and the Chairperson of the Governing Council of Lumad Mindanao People’s Federation, narrated how colonial and post-colonial policies and programs have ushered devastation to their ancestral domains. He cited that without the collective opposition of the Lumads and other IPs against extractive industries, no forests would remain in Mindanao.

“We, the IPs, have long been misunderstood and were even considered as backward and primitive but the international community recognizes that we play an integral role in protecting the planet and addressing climate change,” said Mansayagan.

Mansayagan expressed alarm over various proposed mining attempts within their ancestral domains.

“Noong nalogging at nakalbo ang aming mga kabundukan, nakita naman ng mga kapitalista ang mga ginto sa aming lupang ninuno. Ngayun, gusto nilang kunin (After logging and deforesting our mountains, the capitalists now want to mine the gold underneath),” said Mansayagan.

To address the plight of the IPs and arrest forest degradation in Mindanao, Mansayagan proposed “partnership and cooperation” with the government. He then called on the FEP proponents to raise their proposal to the national level.

Sharing of SDG Practices from the Ground

Aside from the lectures, the event also featured a digital talk show, wherein, representatives from the eight (8) identified LGUs shared their practices related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These LGUs are Davao, Iligan, Cagayan De Oro, Butuan, Zamboanga, General Santos, Marawi, and Cotabato.

During the second day, the participants were grouped according to LGUs and were tasked to identify sustainability issues using Problem Tree Analysis and propose solutions via Objective Tree Analysis. They then filled out a Log Framework, specifying the key strategies and timelines for the proposed solutions.

According to Dr. Rhodora V. Azanza, NAST President, the problems and solutions raised during the workshops can serve as a baseline of the LGUs in initiating programs that would boost Mindanao’s sustainability.

*Press release by the National Research Council of the Philippines, Department of Science and Technology

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