DAVAO CITY — Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, taking on his role as the new head of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) on Monday, said agriculture, the poorest provinces, and indigenous people (IP) communities would be among his priority areas.

Speaking during the chairmanship turn-over ceremony at the MinDA office here, Mr. Piñol said, “(Mindanao) has been endowed with so much resources, but productivity has been very low,” he said, pointing out that most of the areas that are very poor are IP communities who have been sidelined in the crafting of government programs.

In the transitioning Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), where the poorest provinces are mainly located, Mr. Piñol said there is already an agricultural sector development plan, which was drawn up with the assistance of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Mr. Piñol, who was previously DA secretary prior to the MinDA post, said they will be looking at how the plan can be immediately rolled out and ensure benefits to the region.

Among the key projects that he will push for implementation during his six-year tenure include: setting up stores in BARMM villages, which will be managed by widows, wives and children of former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; the plan of the Italian government to fund projects in Mindanao, among them the dredging of the Rio Grande de Mindanao; the proposal of the Turkey government to capacitate local government units through trainings; export premium rice varieties to Papua New Guinea; export expansion of coconut by-product such as fresh coconut water, to China, Hong Kong and the USA; tap Israel for loans for irrigation systems; and export hogs, poultry and vegetables to Singapore.

“We will excel in agriculture if we invest in agriculture,” he said.

Mr. Piñol also emphasized the need to strengthen MinDA as an agency in terms of developing studies-based programs. — Carmelito Q. Francisco