The online news portal of TV5
BULUAN, Maguindanao -- Notwithstanding it being the second poorest province in the country with a public image mired in the “culture of the gun,” Maguindanao “can get rich,” Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said here.
Acknowledging he might be perceived as too “ambitious” with his pronouncement, Mangudadatu nevertheless told journalists at a press conference that his development plan for the province is on the verge of being implemented should he clinch a deal for foreign investors to plunk in over $12 billion in investments into Maguindanao.
Asked who the potential investors were, Mangudadatu would only describe them as “rich Arab nationals who are providers of 60 percent of the food requirement of the Middle East,” and who are interesting in buying carrots, sweet potato, banana and okra, among others, from Maguindanao.
He added that they are also looking at the possibility of setting up processing and canning plants in the province.
Mangudadatu said he offered 334,000 hectares of “idle” land in the province to be devoted to planting the crops the Arabs are interested in.
The governor said around 20 percent of the investments brought in by the Arab nationals, Mangudadatu said, would be allotted for “community development” including community outreach programs and infrastructure support.
Among the preparations being done in anticipation of the investments is opening Davao City airport to direct flights to and from Saudi Arabia and improving the services of Polloc Port in Landasan, Parang Maguindanao.
“Polloc Port is the best entry and exit point for our products,” he said.
But he acknowledged that, before the deal can be bagged, the provincial government has to meet some requirements, such as ensuring peace and order.
Mangudadatu said he has prioritized ridding Maguindanao of the unauthorized bearing of rifles and other long firearms and creating a bomb squad.
He said he had started the campaign against weapons with himself.
“I no longer carry a firearm. I have strict instructions for my close in security escorts not to carry long firearms and I told them to tuck their short guns properly so that the handguns would not be noticeable,” he said.
The bomb squad, on the other hand, to be composed of ordnance experts from the Army and police, will serve as a quick response team to “foil bombing attempts and ensure (the) safety of civilians and their properties.”
He said the team could also serve the city of Cotabato, where a number of incidents and threats have occurred recently.
Since winning the 2010 elections, Mangudadatu has vowed to change Maguindanao’s image as a poverty- and violence-stricken province.
On November 23, 2009, the worst single incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the worst attack on the press ever recorded took place in Ampatuan town when 58 persons, including Mangudadatu’s wife, two sisters and supporters, and 32 media workers, were killed as they were on their way to file his certificate of candidacy.
On February 10-14, the province will be holding the Sagayan Festival, which features Maguindanao’s indigenous culture and traditions and will showcase native delicacies.
The Sagayan is a mystical dance of the Maguindanaoan tribe.