Cotabato City, Philippines
Basilan Gov. Jim Salliman announced on Monday, June 6, that for the next three years he shall focus on boosting the productivity of Basilan residents by investing in modern farming technology adaptable in the island province.
Salliman was reelected as Basilan governor for the third time in the May 9 national and local elections.
“My office shall expand its agriculture and fishery programs using more advanced techniques that we’ve been experimenting on in recent months.” Salliman said.
Salliman’s office had set up in late 2020 two multi-million drip-irrigated greenhouses, one in Isabela City and another in Maluso town, as showcases for propagation of short-term crops.
He said they shall intensify their projects on propagation of more rubber trees in the province and vegetable farming.
Vegetable production was not a traditional source of income among Basilan residents until the provincial government had built greenhouses from where farmers had learned the technology and realized its profitability.
The provincial government has, in recent months, also been experimenting on “hydrophonic” vegetable farming that it wants local farmers to replicate in the municipalities as organized groups.
In hydrophonic farming, vegetables are grown in pots filled with water instead of soil, which is viable in residential yards or anywhere in populated areas and even in beaches.
Agriculture blogger Marvin Baeza, who visited Basilan prior to the May 19 elections, had expressed admiration on how the island province is rising as an economic hub in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Basilan is a component-province of BARMM that also covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Lamitan.
Baeza admitted he had a “not so good impression” about Basilan until he visited the province and saw for himself the exact security situation and economic climate in the area.
While in Basilan, Baeza had a long talk with Salliman about the provincial government’s agricultural interventions for the local Muslim and Christian communities.
Basilan covers 11 towns and two cities, Lamitan and Isabela.
A big number of Basilan residents also rely on fishing in provincial territorial seas as means of livelihood.
Baeza had found out that no other Bangsamoro province is experimenting on hydrophonic agriculture the way Basilan does.
The Basilan provincial government is encouraging residents in seaside villages with sandy grounds not suitable for propagation of vegetables to try the water-based hydrophonic farming technique.
Peace advocates have urged Salliman to introduce hydrophonic farming to the more than 300 former Abu Sayyaf members in the province who have surrendered in batches in the past five years.
The retired commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, Lt. Gen. Juvymax Uy, who had served as brigade commander in Basilan while still a colonel, said Monday it can be an income-generating project for the former Abu Sayyaf members, now thriving peacefully in different Basilan towns.
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Salliman and Uy, the Basilan Provincial Police Office, the military’s Western Mindanao Command and other provincial officials and local executives together reintroduced to mainstream society the erstwhile terror group members.
“Since there is a good relationship between Gov. Salliman and the BARMM regional government, I am pretty confident that Bangsamoro agriculture officials will support this hydrophonic farming program in Basilan,” Uy said. (John Unson)
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