Farmers oppose Lapanday Foods Corporation

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News - (Mindanao Examiner)

DAVAO CITY – Members of various farmers’ groups have accused Lapanday Food Products of land grabbing and exploitation while raking huge profits at the expense of its workers.

“Full control and utilization of the land for the interest of farmers and the economy is imperative. Land grabbers like Lapanday Foods Corporation are using the land for profit,” Antonio Flores, Secretary General of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries held a dialogue with Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and other officials to complaint against Lapanday and discussed other land issues.

Flores said aside the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (MARBAI), Hijo Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-b (HARBCO-B) and the Guhusnong Mag-uuma Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. (GMARBAI) were also demanding that Lapanday return the land to the rightful beneficiaries.

“We want Lapanday out of the lands. Legally and morally, farmworkers own the land,” said Haidee Maike, official of HARBCOB.

Maike claimed that their cooperative, with 372 farmworker-beneficiaries, decided not to renew the onerous Agribusiness Venture Agreement (AVA) contract with Lapanday in 2008 because of unfair terms and conditions. “For every crate box of banana we harvest, we incur a deficit of P25. Sa amin na lahat ng gastos at trabaho, lugi pa kami,” she said.

“Lapanday have been shortchanging and exploiting us for years. Farmworkers receive only alms. Lapanday would often give our salaries in installments of 25 to 50 percent every two weeks. Our take home pay would range from P305 to P100 for every 15 days of work in the banana plantation,” she said.

HARBCO-B said it wants to recover a total of 260 hectares while GMARBAI is reclaiming 116 hectares of land from Lapanday. The lands covering banana plantations are also located in Madaum in Tagum City near the 136 hectares of disputed lands claimed by MARBAI.

“The 149 hectares of land we are tilling is not enough for our 372 members. Each beneficiary tills only about a little over onethird hectare of land without any production support. Before, Lapanday would give our cooperative farm inputs, chemicals and fertilizer. Eventually, Lapanday said we owe them P114-million as payment for the chemicals injected to banana trees,” Maike alleged.

GMARBAI farmworkers were awarded 48 hectares of land, but cannot till this due to lack of support. “No trader would buy our harvest because we cannot meet the production demand. Maliit lang ang tinataniman namin at wala kaming napagkukunan ng suporta sa pagtatanim,” said Rene Lumongo, who is a board member at GMARBAI.

In December 2008, GMARBAI did not renew its AVA contract with Lapanday, according to Lumongo. He said Lapanday allegedly withheld their salaries to force them to agree to a new contract. And on January 2009, they were refused entry to the plantation.

“The three cooperatives are tilling the parcels of land and planting banana on their own without any support from Lapanday. Gusto lang namin umalis na ang Lapanday sa lupa ng mga magsasaka,” Lumongo said.

The farmers said Lapanday - owned by the Lorenzo family - refused to respect and recognize the cease and desist order issued by DAR on December 16, 2017 and even evicted MARBAI agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“We appeal to the DAR to fast track our actual and permanent installation to the land,” said Antonio Tuyak, spokesperson of MARBAI.

The farmworkers alleged that Lapanday has taken control over 1,000 hectares of agrarian reform land under their cooperatives' certificates of land ownership award which forced KMP members and Unyon ng mga Magsasaka sa Agrikultura, and land reform advocates to picket the Lapanday offices in Makati and Davao City.

There was no immediate statement from Lapanday on all accusations and allegations made by the farmers against the corporation.

Farmers burn replica of Lapanday's logo to demand its pull-out from their lands in Mindanao in this photo sent by Kilab Multimedia to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

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