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Malaysian firm to turn land around Philippine massacre site into plantation
Publication Date : 24-03-2014
Idle land around the site of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in which 58 people were killed is up for conversion into a banana plantation and agricultural complex with amenities such as a hospital and a prayer house, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu announced on Saturday.
Mangudadatu, who also lost his wife and several other relatives in what is now known as the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines, said the project’s proponent, Malaysia’s Univex, is to invest more than $10 million to develop the land at Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao in Mindanao.
Thirty-two media workers were also killed in the massacre, the single biggest attack on journalists in history, making the Philippines one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists.
Univex has partnered with Ed Bullecer and Abdulwahid Sumaoang of the Al-Mujahidun Agro Resources Development Inc. (Armadi) to make 1,500 hectares of currently idle land productive, he said.
On Friday, Mangudadatu said, he and Ampatuan Mayor Rasul Sangki signed an agreement with Univex, represented by Gonzalo Ordenana and Michael Coote, and Armadi for the development of the land.
“This gave flesh to our dream of peaceful and productive life among our constituents, particularly the families owning mostly idle lands around the massacre site,” Mangudadatu told reporters here.
He said next week, the investors will start development work in the area and the initial cost of the investment would be $2,800 per hectare.
Ordenana, Univex’s representative in the Philippines, said they were initially fearful of investing in Maguindanao because of the province’s “negative image.”
“But when we came last year on the invitation of Governor Mangudadatu, we realized that the reports were contrary to the potentials abounding in the province. Now, we’re here, launching the project in high spirits,” he said.
Ordenana said that aside from the banana farms, Univex would also construct an agricultural processing facility, a mini-hospital, a demo farm, and a house of worship.