Former combatants turn to Halal meat production as livelihood

By : Mindanao Today/11:20:47am 01/04/2022


(Photos courtesy of OPAPP | PIA-11)

PANTUKAN, DAVAO DE ORO – For decades, these sun-burnt men patrolled the fringes of this hinterland municipality, engaging government forces as they fought for their right to self-determination.

However, those days of fighting are over, as these former mujahedeen have turned away from armed struggle and are now waging a different battle – one that seeks to improve the economic well-being of their people and communities.

The transition of these grizzled warriors as productive members of society has been nothing but inspiring, as they are demonstrating that good things come to those who choose the path of peace and development.

And as they lay down their arms and embrace a peaceful way of life, they have found a new calling – as Halal meat producers.

Pioneering Halal project

Last week, almost 200 of these former MILF combatants became the beneficiaries of a livelihood project jointly spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The project called “Halal Meat Shop and Abattoir Project” is the result of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed between OPAPP and DTI that aims to provide socio-economic interventions to these combatants-turned-entrepreneurs.

This initiative is part of the socioeconomic development component of the normalization track under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which aims to provide sustainable livelihood programs for decommissioned MILF combatants and their families.

Funded by OPAPP, the Halal livelihood project is being carried out through DTI’s Peaceful Return and Aggressive Inclusion Social Entrepreneurship (PRAISE) under the Inter Cabinet Cluster Mechanism on Normalization (ICCMN).

The project beneficiaries are members of five MILF-led cooperatives based in the Davao Region.

These cooperatives include the Davao Oriental Bangsamoro Halal Producers Cooperative, Davao De Oro Bangsamoro Cooperative, Davao Del Norte Bangsamoro Halal Producers Cooperative, Davao Bangsamoro Producers Cooperative and Davao Del Sur Bangsamoro Halal Producers Cooperative.

Under the project, each cooperative received a meat freezer, meet refrigerator, meat bone cutter, meat slicing machine, meat grinder, meat butcher knives, stainless tables, meat hanging stainless bar with hooks, chicken plucking machine, and a fabricated abattoir box frame.

Resolve to uplift economic well-being

Noraidah Busran, project director of DTI-ICCMN, emphasized the importance of the project to the beneficiaries, as she lauded the MILF members for their determination to push for the approval of the pioneering project.

“Ito ang matagal na nating iniiintay. This is what we were talking about three to four months ago. Initially, we thought this project would not push through but we succeeded. Pinaglaban ninyo ang kagustuhan ninyo,” Busran said.

She also cited the support given DTI Undersecretary Abdulganin Macatoman, chairman of the Halal Board’s technical working group, to realize the project which is in line with the agency’s efforts to strengthen the country’s Halal industry.

Busran likewise urged the project beneficiaries to ensure the sustainability of the project by maximizing the use and taking good care of the equipment given to them.

“Our target beneficiaries are not only the cooperatives, but also the families and communities. Gusto po namin ibahagi ito at makatulong sa inyong lahat. Sana po ma sustain ninyo,” she said.

Asmerah Lontua, OPAPP peace program officer, explained that the livelihood project is multi-agency effort by ICCMN member-agencies that is designed to help the MILF members make the successful transition to mainstream society.

“Itong programa po na ito ay kasama sa mga socio-economic programs para sa mga decommissioned combatants na parte ng kanilang transition from armed combatant to a productive and peaceful member of the community,” Lontua said.

“Kami din ay masaya na isa itong projekto na kasama doon sa pinili talaga ng mga decommissined combatants at mga miyembro ng cooperatives na alam nila na ‘yun ay makakatulong sa kanila,” she added.

Paradigm shift

Abdul Rasad Sawad, chairperson of the Learned Kagan Muslim Foundation Inc (LKMFI), which helped conceptualize the project, underscored the major turn-around that has happened in the lives of the MILF members.

“Dati ang iniisip natin baril, ‘yung tine-turn over galing labas. Pero ngayon, ‘yung paradigm shift of transformation dahil sa economic development. ‘Yung shift niya from arms to economic development,” Sawad said.

He also thanked the MILF leadership and the national government for identifying the Davao-based MILF cooperatives as project beneficiaries though they are already outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) core territory.

Meanwhile Roy Lopez, chairman of the MILF Eastern Davao Provincial Committee credited his group’s transformation to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the national government and the MILF in 2014.

Lopez also lauded President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for the political will he has shown, saying his administration has aggressively pushed forward the Bangsamoro peace process during his term.

“Ito na po ang bunga ng long struggle and long negotiations. Humantong tayo sa ganito,” he said.

Lopez also reaffirmed the MILF members’ commitment to help preserve the gains of Bangsamoro peace process.

“This program is the intervention of the different line agencies. Ito ang nakasaad sa agreement. We have the commitment with the MILF leadership. If they uphold the peace process, we will also uphold the peace process,” he said. (OPAPP | PIA-11)

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