One of the fastest-rising provinces in the country is the former war-ravaged province of North Cotabato.
From being one of the five poorest provinces in the country, North Cotabato is now ranked number twenty nine in terms of economic strength, a meteoric rise that spanned in just eight years.
The man responsible for the economic boom of North Cotabato is a diminutive but brave Governor Emmanuel "Manny" Pinol, a former journalist and active sports commentator.
"Not long ago, North Cotabato has been known as a garbage dump. In this province you witness endless war between government troops and all types of rebels" Pinol said.
It was not long ago that North Cotabato was the haven of practically all kinds of heinous crimes, ranging from kidnapping, ambuscades, extortion, murder---- you name it, Pinol added.
But now, Pinol said he is proud to showcase North Cotabato was one of the fastest growing economy in the south.
Despite being surrounded by rebel camps of the Moro Islamic Libereation Front (MILF), peace has reigned over the province.
The only way to establish lasting peace is to eradicate poverty and want.
Even a thousand peace agreements will not guarantee cessation of hostilities, if the stomach is hungry.
That is why, Pinol explained, we will boost the province economy and make the lives of our constituents better.
This is the only way peace can be achieved, Pinol stressed.
Pinol disdains the centralized form of governmennt, saying this has contributed largely to the economic retrogession of many provinces in Mindanao.
People in imperial Manila have no idea on how to place our province on the path to progress. We have to chart our own destiny, Pinol maintains.
That is why he said he has adopted simple formula to remove North Cotabato from the list of poor provinces.
Pinol emphasized that his province has adopted the policy of re-focused agrciulture.
North Cotabato concentrates globally marketable agriculture.
We have surveyed the most globally marketable agricultural products, and we concentrate on these, Pinol said.
Now, North Cotabato is one of the largest producers of banana, focusing on the Lakatan variety. Pinol reported that
North Cotabato ships out more than a million tons of banana every week.
Another major production of North Cotabato is rubber.
Governor Pinbol said he is making a national advocacy for the propagation of rubber.
These are the money-making ventures in agriculture, not the planting of rice, corn and tomatoes, Pinol stressed.
Pinol said he has focused on rural and countryside development by building farm to market roads so that the farmers will no longer be burdened of the difficulty of selling their produce.
Pinol also said he believes in investing in education of the youth, as they will become the leaders of the future.
An educated community will deter bloody conflicts, he explained.
That is why the province has adopted a program of granting scholarships to talented children from North Cotabato, and sending them to top schools.
After these children graduate, they will hopefully return and apply what they have learned, and become leaders in their respective home communities.
Kidapawan City is the capital of North Cotabato.
It is the haven of so many types of fruits like Rambutan, Pomelo, Durian, due mainly to the favorable climate which is conducive to growing fruits.
The province of North Cotabato is a success story that continues to unfold, Pinonl said.
He spoke recently before provincial newsmen and shared his story on how North Cotabato rose from the ashes of poverty.
He delivered a power point presentation, detailing how in eight years, North Cotabato has become the one of the center of economic growths not only in Mindanao but the entire country .
Also accompanying the governor was the runner up in the Miss Earth-Air, Miss Nadia Dela Cruz, who hails from North Cotabato.
I brought her along to show that not everyone in North Cotabato is short, Pinol said.
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