Zamboanga Sibugay moves to turn pirates' haven into agri-aqua hub

Officials of Zamboanga Sibugay and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) on Tuesday, September 14, launched the development alliance of three island municipalities, a move seen as a “game-changer” for towns that were once known for piracy, extortion, and kidnappings.

The plan includes the development of the Olutanga Island Agro-Fisheries Industrial Zone, a solar farm, a coconut processing plant, and setting up cold storage facilities.

The plan to develop Olutanga Island into the agri-aqua hub for Zamboanga Peninsula would be a “game-changer for the islanders,” said Mabuhay town Mayor Edreluisa Calonge, the vice chairperson of the alliance.

Olutanga, Talusan, and Mabuhay are the three towns that comprise the OLTAMA Development Alliance.

Calonge said she hoped that the undertaking would give the area a new image.

Olutanga Island has been known for years as a haven of pirates, extortionists, and kidnappers.

Talusan Mayor Orlando Ramiso agreed and said the alliance's efforts would transform the “lowly place" into a developed and peaceful island with a good road network.

But the road to the island's development would be long, said Joey Recimilla, MinDA director for planning and project development.

MinDA, said Recimilla, would merely facilitate, assist, and link the alliance to funding agencies.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) of Zamboanga Peninsula, according to Recimilla, should include the blueprint to develop the island into an agri-aqua hub.

From the RDC, it should be included in the National Development Plan for funding, he said.

Venancio Ferrer III, Zamboanga Sibugay's planning and development officer, said the provincial government would help the island municipalities get the plan going.

The Project Management Office (PMO), which Ferrer heads, will provide the technical assistance to the alliance, he said. 

MinDA Chairman Emmanuel Pinol said the plan will give the island municipalities the break they need, and pave the way for the development of the three municipalities.

Olutanga Island, which has a total land area of 194 square kilometers, has a population of about 87,000. – Rappler.com

Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.