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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Joint US-Phil Army sails on ‘fish for peace’

By Ferdinandh B. Cabrera, The Mindanao Cross

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato – Hundreds of residents in a village of Barangay Nes of this town have benefitted the “Fish for Peace” program aimed to train local folks in propagating new species of fresh water fish “Pangasius”.

The effort was initiated by Eastern Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer with his counterparts from the Joint Special Operations Task Force of the U.S. Army headed by Col. William Coultrup along with community partner Magungaya Center for PALMA, Inc.

A 300-square meter techno-demo farm pond with a start-up of 1,500 fingerlings of Pangasius will serve as a training ground to those who are interested in this aqua farming business.

The town of Midsayap and nearby localities here in Central Mindanao is a potential breeding and raising ground for Pangasius with its proximity to Ligausan Marsh and many fresh water sources.

“If we introduce development programs in the conflict areas, we can attain certain peace. When people have food for their family, they can think better, more so if they have money, then they can send their children to school; in effect, it would increase literacy in the community,” said Lt. Gen. Ferrrer.

He further stressed if the people could feel there is development working in their communities, they wouldn’t be easily duped from the ideals of lawless groups in engaging arm struggle against the government.

Based on a study on this fish species project, huge tones of the meat product awaits the markets which Ferrer said can open better opportunities for rural folk.

The meat of Pangasius, usually called as cream dory, is now an alternative recipe in some hotels and restaurants around the country following the depleting supply of tuna fish.

“We are providing them now with a different outlook in life. With this fish farming, they have something to turn to and will lead to more stability. In this case, we are expecting they will push out lawless elements that are trying to disrupt their area, especially when they are turning to development,” added Col. Coultrup.

Department of Trade and industry may help in marketing the products while the Department of Agriculture can provide technical knowledge and trainings along with the B-Meg Company, a huge aqua-marine feed producer in the country.

Junalyn Sumlay of the Magungaya Center for Palma Inc. was glad to work with the initiative of the joint forces. “This is really something in the hearts and minds of the people.”

She added that 43 members of the Magungaya quick response team will be the pilot individuals to be model farmers in their respective barangays in PALMA area.

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