Target agri exports, MinDA chief tells local execs
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Officials in Mindanao should rely on themselves to improve the lot of local farmers and the poor, a top official of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said.
Emmanuel Piñol, who assumed the chairmanship of MinDA last week, said governors and mayors in Mindanao should not depend on national government funds to bankroll projects critical to local development. Instead, they should access loans from banks so they can turn their provinces, cities and towns into exporters of premium agricultural commodities.
Piñol, a former secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), told the Inquirer recently that local governments who wanted to irrigate wide tracts of land could access funds by partnering with countries who were offering loans.
He cited a P44-billion loan facility for solar-powered irrigation system (SPIS) offered by the Israeli government and a Dubai-based Russian company that earlier offered a loan program for fertilizers.
Piñol said these funds were offered to the DA but he could make arrangements so Mindanao local governments could access them.
The Israelis, he said, have built two models of the SPIS in Lumban town, Laguna province, as donation.
According to Piñol, the loan offer still stands and he wants to link lending agencies with local governments in Mindanao.
During his assumption of office here last week, Piñol told governors and mayors not to be afraid to avail of loans if only to increase agricultural productivity in their areas.
He said they could use the money to finance irrigation systems that would transform their areas into top producers and exporters of high-value agriculture commodities, like Mindanao’s premium rice and coconuts.
“Let’s not hope for the national budget here,” he said. “Let’s no longer dream, let’s find ways on our own, let’s use our own resources.”
“Don’t be afraid to apply for loans to finance your projects because after all, it’s not the role of the government to save money, the role of the government is to collect taxes and spend the money,” he added.
Piñol said MinDA had earlier targeted “lofty” projects but he would only focus on peace, productivity and addressing poverty. “MinDA must now play an active role in ensuring that the gains of peace would be felt by the people of Mindanao today and in the next generations,” he added. —GERMELINA LACORTE
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