Banana growers urge Duterte to reverse decision on lease deal
An agrarian reform cooperative of small banana farmers in Davao del Norte have renewed their appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to reverse his earlier decision to revoke the lease contract it had entered with the company that has provided the land they till for free.
In its appeal, the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (DAMARBDEVCO) said the revocation of its lease deal or Agribusiness Venture Agreement (AVA) with Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI) would force thousands of farmers and their families into bankruptcy, saddle them with debts and deprive them of the educational, health and other fringe benefits they are now getting as part of the terms of their contract.
Revoking the contract, they pointed out, would also lead to some R2.09 billion in revenue losses for the government over a 16-year period.
Both DAMARBDEVCO and MEPI said cancelling the AVA would also send the wrong signals to investors and discourage investments at a time when the government is seeking more capital to pump into the economy to realize its agenda of inclusive growth.
Even the government, they said, would be at the losing end as it would have to pay MEPI more than R1 billion representing its just compensation for the land it had already donated to the members of DAMARBDEVCO but would now have to take back because of the revocation of the lease contract.
“The revocation of the [AVA] by the [Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC)] is greatly unjust and oppressive to MEPI, which has always dealt fairly with the ARBs, not to mention detrimental to their welfare and a majority of whom are even opposed to such revocation,” they said in a statement.
MEPI had written a letter in August last year to Duterte in his capacity as PARC chairperson asking him not to revoke the AVA, while DAMARBDEVCO sent a similar letter to Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, who chairs the PARC Executive Committee.