Aid agency Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has granted state-run Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) a 4.9-billion yen (over P2.1 billion) loan to support the agriculture sector in the war-torn areas of Mindanao.
In a statement, Jica said the official development assistance (ODA) under its yen loan scheme was launched this week through a project dubbed “Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation” or “Harvest.”
The project would be assisting agriculture enterprises as well as farmers’ cooperatives, among other related organizations, in Mindanao, Jica said.
It would also provide human resource training and technical assistance to Landbank, agriculture cooperatives, and other relevant institutions, Jica added.
“‘Harvest’ presents opportunities to help ordinary Filipino farmers in Mindanao and related institutions grow the agriculture sector. Through the project’s financial inclusion of farmers’ cooperatives, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and related organizations, more investments and jobs will be created in Mindanao’s conflict-affected areas,” Jica chief representative Susumu Ito said.
Government data showed that in 2013, agriculture, fishing and forestry accounted for over three-fifths of Mindanao’s regional economy, employing 68.4 of its population.
Poverty incidence, however, remained at over half of the population due to the decades of conflict in several parts of the island, Jica noted.
The Japanese aid agency and the Bangsamoro Development Agency had worked on the proposed Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) 2, the medium- to long-term plan that will guide development in Mindanao.
Jica had been wanting to help roll out under the BDP 2 a total of 26 anchor projects spanning a wide array of socioeconomic sectors in order to lift Bangsamoro people out of poverty by 2028.
If fully implemented, the BDP 2 would create about 550,000 additional jobs by 2022, while the region’s economy could grow as fast as 7.4 percent annually, according to Jica.
The anchor projects earlier identified by Jica and BDA under the BDP 2 were as follows: support for agricultural cooperatives; road rehabilitation and upgrading; ports and airport improvement; Greater Cotabato City urban infrastructure; communal irrigation; economic corridor development; economic zones; as well as abaca, coco coir and sugar industrial cluster development.
Also among the BDP 2 initiatives were agri-based projects (such as goat farming and mixed field crop production); seed production center; halal industry promotion; open market; cold chain facilities; community-based forest and coastal management; mini hydropower development; and Mindanao river basin integrated watershed as well as flood management projects.
A 2005 study of the Human Development Network noted that the underdevelopment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is linked to the long history of armed conflict in the area. According to the said report, the war in Mindanao costs around P5 to 7.5 billion annually, which could have been used instead to fund development projects.
The poverty incidence in ARMM was at 55.8 percent in 2012—much higher than the national average of 25.2 percent and 39.1 percent for the whole of Mindanao, government data showed.
Since 2002, Jica has been extending assistance to about 30 programs and projects in Mindanao under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development or J-Bird.
A total of 20 billion yen in development aid has been provided by Jica as well as Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2003 to 2015, it added.