Thursday, September 20, 2007

North Cotabato hails “Fruits of Hope” program

North Cotabato hails “Fruits of Hope” program

Philippine National Red Cross Chairman (PNRC) and CEO, Senator Richard J. Gordon, arrived at the Villamor Airbase on Tuesday from Davao City on board a C-130 laden with 13.5 tons of assorted fresh fruits from North Cotabato and a cargo-hold of fresh hope for lasting peace in Mindanao.

This was the second humanitary mission conducted under the ‘Fruits of Hope’ program led by Gordon as PNRC Chairman and is jointly supported by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Asia America Initiative, and the Philippine Air Force together with Rustan’s, SM, and Nestle Nescafe Corporation. The ‘Fruits of Hope’ program is a joint peace building initiative which aims to link producers of various agricultural crops from Sulu, Basilan, North Cotabato, and other areas in Mindanao to markets in Metro Manila and help them get a better price for their goods, thereby assuring them of better profits.

Gordon, along with North Cotabato Governor Susing Sacdalan, North Cotabato Vice Gov. Manny Pinol and representatives of the North Cotabato Fruit Growers Association were met at Villamor Airbase by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon, and other government officials.

The President congratulated Gordon and the leaders of North Cotabato for their efforts in alleviating the plight of fruit farmers in North Cotabato.

At a press conference in Davao City prior to their departure for Manila, North Cotabato Governor Sacdalan and Vice Governor Pinol lauded the efforts of Senator Gordon for supporting North Cotabato’s bid for peace and development. They likewise voiced their support for the ‘Fruits of Hope’ program, saying that they looked forward to making giant strides together with Senator Gordon as well as the program’s partners towards achieving just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

“The essence of the ‘Fruits of Hope’ program is not only that it brings livelihood to thousands farmers and farm workers struck down by the blights of conflict, but it is opening peoples’ minds to the fact that Sulu, Basilan, North Cotabato and other areas in Mindanao are vast peaceful areas with intermittent outbreaks of conflict in remote and isolated areas. By opening minds, as well as hearts, we will do more towards persuading our countrymen and even the global community to invest in development for these areas – in short, to invest in peace,” said Gordon.
The Fruits of Peace program, since its first mission two weeks ago in Sulu, has gained more support from corporations and Metro Manila based cooperatives.
The future partners of the ‘Fruits of Hope’ program include NAMVESCO (National Market Vendors Association of the Philippines), Negros Navigation, Sulpicio Lines, Vintel Logistics, Bagumbayan Movement Committee on Livelihood and Productivity.

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