Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Fruits of Peace

When does a piece of fruit become a fruit of peace? Read on.

No fierce fighting, just fresh fruits in Sulu
By Arlyn dela CruzInquirerLast updated

04:36am (Mla time) 09/05/2007

JOLO, SULU -- In what may be a first in the history of Sulu province, a Philippine Air Force cargo plane won’t be bringing in more soldiers for war or retrieve the bodies of soldiers slain in encounters with bandits.

On orders of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the C-130 will embark on a mission here on Sept. 10 to pick up farmers’ produce in what Gov. Abdulsakur Tan described as a “symbolic act of humanitarian invasion.”

“It is actually part of the implementation of Administrative Order No. 192 issued by the President ordering a humanitarian offensive in Basilan, Sulu and other areas under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Tan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of

AO 192 classifies the ARMM provinces -- Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Shariff Kabunsuan -- as “the poorest in the country.”

Tan said the absence of any fresh encounters between the military and the Abu Sayyaf, as well as other rebel groups, had paved the way for the uninterrupted harvest of farms.
Marketing problem

But one problem cropped up -- where to market the bounty aside from nearby Zamboanga City.
Bringing the produce to Metro Manila on a C-130 plane, Tan explained, was an idea he picked up from a recent visit of Sen. Richard Gordon to Sulu.

The senator, he said, “urged him to actively market the fruits harvested in Sulu” by seeking the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Gordon, in an Aug. 20 letter to Ms Arroyo, made a formal recommendation. “The produce is very cheap and DTI can help market the products of Sulu at better prices,” he said.

Cheap fruits

The streets of downtown Jolo are flooded by a seeming oversupply of durian, mangosteen and lanzones. A bunch of mangosteen that weighs almost two kilos costs only P7-P10. It costs more than P200 in Metro Manila.

Lanzones are sold in 5-kilo baskets at only P50. In Zamboanga, the same fruit is sold at P20-P30 a kilo.

Durian fruits stringed in threes can be bought at a bargain price of P15-P30, depending on size. In fruit stands in Greenhills, San Juan, and elsewhere in Metro Manila, they cost from P120 to P180 apiece.

Tan went to the DTI main office in Makati City to seek assistance in marketing the produce to be airlifted from Sulu by the C-130 plane.

The “humanitarian offensive” ordered by Ms Arroyo, according to the governor, indicated that she was not pursuing an all-out war in the province. Her parallel instruction to all Cabinet officials is an “all-out development offensive” in Sulu and Basilan.

“Finally, you in Metro Manila will get to taste just how sweet and delicious our durian, mangosteen and lanzones,” he said.

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