Rural development

I write this in a business hotel located in Cagayan de Oro City, a place I last visited more than six years ago, before the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte. The Laguindingan Airport looks and feels the same.

The number of people entering and leaving the aviation gateway of Northern Mindanao appears to be of the same quantity. I have been anticipating more development around the airport given that it is a vast tract of land that was said to be owned by the Ayalas, but it might take another decade for any major change to happen.

The highway from Laguindingan Airport to Cagayan de Oro City was the biggest change. It is much wider with four lanes on each side, for the most part. There are now more access roads leading to different parts of the city, which is a sign of an increase in traffic in downtown. As a fan of huge infrastructure projects, I asked if the Panguil Bay Bridge has progressed — it was still under construction.

This bridge promises to be the longest spanning bridge in the country, longer than San Juanico Bridge, even the recently opened Cebu Cordova Link Expressway. Once finished, the Panguil Bay Bridge will connect Tangub City and Tubod, Lanao del Norte, making an original seven-hour trip, to be done in minutes. The construction is heavily delayed, but once finished, more development will lead to the western portion of Northern Mindanao, beyond Iligan City, leading to Lanao del Norte and Pagadian City.

This trip fortifies the notion of how a single Administration can change a rural city. I missed visiting Cagayan de Oro for the entire Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, and now there is much development. I am not saying this to attribute the positives to President Duterte, mindful that for local officials, two terms have already surpassed. Rather, a six-year period is enough to see a solid change in a city or a province. Mindanao was, and remains to be, a priority for the administration. Our Vice President, at the helm of the Department of Education, is vocal in uplifting Mindanao.

President Bongbong Marcos Jr., on the other hand, is correct in focusing on agriculture. The recent blunder, and/or the later sacking, of key officials in the Department of Agriculture and the Sugar Regulatory Administration, show the microscopic view the leadership has on agriculture. President Marcos Jr. has drawn first blood on these officials and made an example out of them. This surely sends the right signal: Make one mistake, and you’re out, especially if it is about agriculture and food security.

Outside of urban cities, the hyphenated importance of agriculture is evident to the naked eye. Seeing fields being tended by farmers, you hope that our farmers are earning enough to earn a decent living, but the reality is that it’s the other way around. Farming is not an inherited business, with farmers’ children choosing not to continue their parents’ craft and live elsewhere in urban cities. The tragedy of it all is that the capitalists who earn more from agriculture also live in urban cities, with businesses surely to be inherited by their own children.

It is for these reasons that we should support President Marcos Jr.’s moves to reorganize the government agencies in charge of agriculture. There will be birth pains, just as in any new administration, may it be in the public or private sector, but it also brings in hope that new and better things are on their way in.


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