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Agriculture chief visits MILF camp

COTABATO CITY – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol visited Camp Darapanan of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao Wednesday to lead the graduation of 360 former MILF combatants in the Upland Rice-Based Farming System.

MILF Chairman Hadji Murad Ebrahim and Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar welcomed Pinol.

“It’s not easy to move forward without facing our past,” Piñol said in his message before MILF leaders and former combatant-members.

“The bottom line is we are here to bring government agriculture program to your people,” he told the MILF officials.

Murad said they are pleased to see the Duterte government through the Department of Agriculture conducting the graduation rites for the 362 farmer-beneficiaries.

“At first, there was reluctance since many perceived Piñol to be anti-Muslim. But now, he is a friend of Muslims,” the MILF chieftain said.

The Upland Rice-Based Farming System sponsored by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and Philippine Rice Institute in partnership with the DA intends to turn former MILF combatants into productive farmers as part of the preparation for the Normalization Phase of the Peace Agreement between the Philippine Government and the MILF.

Piñol’s visit to the camp ostensibly mended his past stiff dispute with the MILF leadership over a mothballed peace deal.

Piñol, Ebrahim, and Jaafar had a long history together.

They traded barbs over Mindanao peace process issues in 2008. Piñol and Jaafar worked together in the defunct dxCM radio station in this city in late 70s and early 80s.

Then North Cotabato Gov. Piñol led the petition that prompted the Supreme Court to nullify the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in 2008 between the government and the MILF.

Piñol staged the petition because of the Arroyo government’s failure to conduct public consultations on the MOA-AD in North Cotabato and other areas proposed for coverage under the mothballed peace deal. (Ali G. Macabalang)

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