THE P126 million worth of support that the New Zealand Aid granted Mindanao through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will be used to restore agricultural livelihood in the island-region by capacitating the farmers and fisherfolks.

Last Tuesday, May 29, the New Zealand Embassy and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) signed a memorandum of agreement which states that FAO will be granting P126 million or New Zealand $3.5 million to Mindanao through the New Zealand Aid.

Newly-appointed New Zealand Honorary Consul for Mindanao Vicente Lao said they have yet to receive the details as to what specific projects the grant will be used for. He said this will primarily be used for capacity-building of the farmers and fisherfolks in Mindanao especially in the Bangsamoro areas.

“New Zealand is really advanced in terms of agriculture and marine technology. They have technologies that I think can be shared to our local farmers and fisherfolks as well. That’s the main reason I accepted this position because I would want our farmers and fisherfolks to be helped by means of technology transfer,” said Lao.

He added the advanced technology used in agriculture of New Zealand will definitely help with the development of agriculture in the Philippines as well.

“As we venture into this new partnership, which will target Maguindanao and North Cotabato, it is our hope that our past successes will be sustained and scaled up. We aim to create opportunities to increase peoples’ incomes, facilitate linkages with the value chain, ensure market opportunities in growth centers, and help communities to become more proactive in dealing with future shocks. I am quite excited for this project as this will also contribute to expanding FAO partnerships and with other stakeholders, including the private sector,” said Jose Luiz Fernandez, FAO Philippines representative.

Together with Lao, an honorary consul for Visayas was also appointed by the New Zealand government. Manual Osmeña of Cebu comes from a family of Cebuano entrepreneurs and is primarily into tourism, airline catering and airport services, and wine and hotel business. He is now the group chairman of the Manny O. Group and the founder and chairman as well of HopeNow Philippines Foundation.

Lao is the current Mindanao Business Council chair as well as the chairman of the board of the Bimp-Eaga Business Council. His business ventures are towards agriculture, construction, and the import and export sector.

This is the first time that the New Zealand government had chosen Honorary Consuls in the Philippines.

“The move reflects the growing interest of the New Zealand private sector in opportunities associated with impressive economic growth in Davao and Cebu. We are delighted that Mr. Osmeña and Mr. Lao, two highly respected and dynamic Filipino businesspersons have agreed to take on these new roles,” said New Zealand Ambassador to the Philippines David Strachan.

Aside from the P126-million grant to be used for the agricultural development of Mindanao, the New Zealand government will make P18 million, or New Zealand $500,000 humanitarian assistance through the World Food Programme. The amount will be used to help the people affected by the Marawi siege. (JPA)