Manila Bulletin

Ba­nana grow­ers urge Duterte to re­verse de­ci­sion on lease deal

- By MADE­LAINE B. MIRAFLOR

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.

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