Cotabato City—The incoming Bangsamoro government will abolish a present agriculture agency, but will inherit tons of research data that helped shape the improving economy of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the last few years, officials said.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the region’s agriculture and fishery sector will be the “broadest base of economic and human development to host the transformation of Moro guerrillas in the period of normalization.”
The shift to Bangsamoro ARMM from the present regional government provides for a transition period, which also covers time for “normalization” in transforming and reintegrating former Moro combatants into the mainstream communities.
After the January 2019 plebiscite, ARMM will evolve into a Bangsamoro Transition Authority, will skip the May 2019 national elections and will exist until the election of members of parliament in May 2022.
ARMM’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will soon be abolished, as prescribed under the Bangsamoro Organic Law or Republic Act 11054. As the prime agency for mostly Moro farmers and fishers in the region, it will be replaced by another office that will merge agriculture and fisheries with agrarian reform functions.
DAF-ARMM Regional Secretary Alexander Alonto Jr. said the agency has helped farmers adopt new technologies in a bid to increase agricultural productivity and income level for the region’s tillers during the last 28 years.
In a series of provincial assemblies that ended last weekend, officials said one challenge to the ARMM’s agriculture sector was coping with a 12.25-percent decrease in corn production, even as its level of rice production increased by 11.53 percent during the last three years from 2015 statistics.
Sittie Anida Tomawis Limbona, administrative director of DAF-ARMM, said agriculture and fishery databank should cover the most updated agricultural statistics in aid of research and development (R and D) for the welfare of the incoming BARMM government.
Another agency will be created in which the agriculture agency will be merged into a regional Department of Agrarian Reform.
Kadiguia Rakman Abdullah, head of the DAF-ARMM information division, said in partnership with the Philippine Rice Information System (Prism), farmers and farm technicians now are now equipped with palm tablet units with printers.
This, Abdullah said, upgrades farms monitoring scheme will effectively determine the appropriate technological intervention, and as to when it is needed.
All useful data for modern farming guides are stored in the apps of the farmers’ tablets, along with the usual programs installed.
ARMM tops other provinces in terms of the country’s production of cassava and seaweeds. The region ranks fourth in corn production, fifth in coconut, and 11th in rice among the country’s 81 provinces.
Hataman said 2016 statistics saw the region’s economic performance improving by 0.3 percent as it contributed 0.6 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
He said more than 80 percent of the 3,248,787 population of the ARMM live in rural areas, where families are prone to displacement due to armed skirmishes and natural calamities such as floods.
Hataman said many of ARMM’s rice-producing villages were still recovering from dislocation due to incidents of armed conflict, causing massive migration especially among young individuals.
He said in a life expectancy of 60 years old, Hataman said the region’s average age of farmers at 52 years old posed an alarming situation that in the next eight to 10 years, there could no longer be as much food served on the table.
Hataman said the challenge to the normalization process of the Bangsamoro transition is to help lower, possibly to its minimum level, the instances of armed conflict, if any.
Second is to fill-in the gap in the diminishing workforce of the agriculture sector due to migration resulting from armed conflict.
The reality, Hataman said, was that rice production in the region could sharply drop in the next 10 years if migration, principally due to armed conflict, was not addressed.
“The trend in young people from farming communities seeking employment opportunities elsewhere for survival, is taking heavy toll on the evolution of the farming generation, making farmers the ‘vanishing species’ of sort in their communities,” he said.
The region’s poverty incidence as determined from Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) remains high at 48.2, and such is largely blamed on increasing number of dependents to income earners among families adversely affected by armed conflict.
In 2016, ARMM had a total employment generation for 1.14 million persons, while the agriculture and fishery sector alone generated jobs for 741,000 persons.
The region’s production of palay at 544,486 metric tons and area of production at 212,927 hectares increased by 11.53 percent and 9.56 percent, respectively, in 2016.
Production of corn at 590,580 metric tons went down by 12.25 percent, and the total production area of 261,157 hectares of the region’s corn farmland was 7.49 percent lower than its 2015 records.
The cost of production for palay (unhusked rice) is also high at P 29,763 per hectare or P 11.64 per kilogram, and with a maximum returns rate of P 14,303 per hectare. Farm-gate price is pegged at P 17.23/ kilogram
Corn production costs P17,998 per hectare or P7.96 per kilogram with a net returns rate of P8,091 per hectare, and a farm-gate price placed P11.54/ kilogram.