ENTERPRISING former combatants of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Davao del Sur are poised for learning value-adding skills and gaining market access for their processed bangus (milkfish) and sandals.

This will be done with the help of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Davao Region and the Action for Conflict Transformation (ACT) for Peace Programme.

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Former MNLF combatants engaged in de-boned and smoked Bangus processing and packaging in the towns of Malita and Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, as well as those who are into sandal manufacturing in Digos City, will get free technical assistance on marketing and livelihood value-adding skills to improve their products and gain access in the domestic market.

Secretary Jesus Dureza, chairman of Mindanao Development Authority and national program director of the ACT for Peace Programme, said that these three areas in Davao del Sur that have been transformed from being conflict zones into peace and development communities or PDCs will serve as pilot areas for the programme’s project on Strengthening Production, Processing, Packaging and Marketing of PDC-community economic development products.

In partnership with the programme, the DOST will extend to the PDCs its Science and Technology Experts Volunteer Pool Program (STEVPP), a project that brings scientists and experts to the countryside to give free technical assistance that will involve training, on-field coaching and product packaging.

The PDCs will also learn how to access investment inputs for specialized machines related to their community enterprise activities.

Aside from STEVPP, DOST also offers the Manufacturing Productivity Extension for Export Promotion (MPEX) program, where they help SMEs attain higher productivity in manufacturing.

For its part, the Act for Peace Programme shall also assist in the social preparation of the PDCs, provide capital investment, and facilitate convergence of the PDCs economic projects with other initiatives.

Dureza said the MNLF former combatants, now known as peace and development advocates, are concentrated in 278 peace and development communities across Mindanao and Palawan.

The PDC is the basic social unit upon which the whole peace and development framework of the GOP-UNMDP peace-building efforts is founded. These are marginalized and conflict-affected and vulnerable communities that become actively engaged in transformation process with the help of development partners.

A PDC may consist of a barangay, or a cluster of barangays marked by a convergence of peace-building and development activities.

Dureza said the ACT for peace programme has seen that conflict-affected and vulnerable communities require economic support to trigger or support transformation that is why part of its strategies is the community economic development (CED) projects.