Thursday Sep, 28 2023 03:12:36 AM

Agri productivity in ex-NPA enclave booming 

Mindanao Peace Process • 16:00 PM Wed May 3, 2023
John M. Unson
 Brig. Gen. Patricio R. Amata dons a medal to a Blaan woman for finishing with honors a three-month literacy program for residents of Barangay Donganpekong in Matanao, Davao del Sur. (Contributed photo)

KIDAPAWAN CITY - Productivity of farmers in a former bastion of communist insurgents, feared for forced taxation and their ruthless self-styled justice system, has been improving and children in the area now have access to schools.

Lt. Col. Ezra L. Balagtey of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion told reporters Wednesday Brig. Gen. Patricio R. Amata, commander of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade, visited on Friday the erstwhile enclave of the New People’s Army in Barangay Donganpekong in Matanao, Davao del Sur for a dialogue with the local communities.

“That was something that could never happen when sitios in that barangay were still under control of the terrorist New People’s Army,” Balagtey said.

Amata and Matanao Mayor Vincent F. Fernandez were among officials and community leaders present in Friday’s closing program for a three-month Peace and Development Alternative Literacy System, or PEDALS project, an inter-agency community-empowerment intervention implemented in Barangay Donganpekong.

Fernandez said life for families in upland areas in Barangay Donganpekong has been peaceful since 2019 --- after soldiers and volunteer community groups together drove NPAs away and declared the area a “peace zone,” off limits to enemies of state.

“Their productivity has also improved because they can now move freely in their farms without fear of getting caught in rebel-military encounters,” he said.

Barangay Donganpekong is home to mixed Blaan tribespeople and settlers, mostly of Visayan descent, whose means of livelihood is rice and vegetable farming and propagation of orchard trees.

Rodulfo T. Lauda, chairman of Barangay Donganpekong, said merchants now go to sitios under his jurisdiction to buy agricultural products from local residents, something they never did before.

“There has been a big improvement compared to the time when there were armed men around collecting money and asking for food at gunpoint,” he said.

In separate messages during the closing program that marked the culmination of the PEDALS project, Lauda and Fernandez expressed gratitude to the 39th IB and the 1002nd Brigade for supporting their local government unit’s continuing peace and sustainable development programs meant to sustain the socio-economic growth of Barangay Donganpekong.

The two officials said 110 Blaan children and adults benefited from the PEDALS project that involved the Youth for Peace Movement-Davao del Sur.

The project was also supported by the Matanao LGU, the National Commission on Indigenous People, the Department of Science and Technology, the Davao del Sur provincial government and the Philippine National Police.

Fernandez said two non-government organizations - the Junior Chamber Incorporated Duwaling and Goodlife Foundation --- were also key benefactors of the PEDALS project.


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