SPECIAL REPORT: (Conclusion)
MANILA, Philippines - The Floirendo family’s Tagum Agricultural Development Co. Inc. (Tadeco) has declined to make public specific details of its joint venture agreement with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), saying that these would be contained in its counter-affidavit to be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman in response to the complaint filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez over the said agreement.
However, experts said that similar agreements, especially those concerning agricultural lands for food security, must be transparent.
The Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (Angoc), for instance, said that often, agreements concerning agricultural land lack transparency.
The lack of transparency in such investments often leaves relevant stakeholders, such as farmers, in the dark, it said.
“We must ask the government to champion the cause of the people and be vigilant concerning the business agreements they enter into. They must also provide clearer and direct policies governing these agreements, not only for transparency, but also to avoid conflicts among the sector,” Angoc said.
Alvarez has filed a graft complaint against his erstwhile friend, Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr. in relation to the agreement between Tadeco and Bucor.
Other lawmakers have also joined calls to investigate the matter.
ACT-Teachers party list Rep. Antonio Tinio, for instance, said there is indeed a need to look into the matter.
“Kailangan din tingnan yung working conditions nung workers sa Davao penal colony. Kailangan tingnan ang condition ng mga magsasaka doon, at kung dapat i-turn over yung lupa for agrarian reform,” Tinio said.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas likewise said there is a need to evaluate the contract. She said that the land could be distributed to the farmers.
“Banana plantation siya ngayon, pero ang deal ng BuCor ay gawin siyang kulungan. Dahil plantation siya ngayon, madami diyang magsasaka,” Brosas said.
It is now up to authorities, including the Department of Justice, to look deeper into the Tadeco and Bucor joint venture agreement to see whether or not it is indeed disadvantageous to the government and if it should be amended to reflect better rates, or be voided altogether.
In a letter addressed to Alvarez, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said he has created a committee to immediately conduct a probe that would focus on the “legality” of the Joint Venture Agreement signed on May 21, 2003.
According to Aguirre, the findings in the probe would be submitted to Alvarez’s office once finished. The justice chief even promised utmost transparency in the probe.
Tadeco, after all, is clearly one of the biggest banana plantations in the world, making it one of the most profitable companies in the Philippines.
This year, for instance, it is eyeing to ship 32 million boxes or 432,000 MT of bananas in 2017 from the expected 30.9 million exports or 417,000 MT this year.
Tadeco produces and exports Cavendish bananas to Japan, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Middle East, Russia, Malaysia and Singapore under the Del Monte and Dole brands.
At present, the 6,640-hectare Tadeco banana plantation ships an average of 6,000 boxes per day.
Its biggest market is the Middle East at 43 percent, followed by Japan and Korea with 23 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
The Philippines remains to be the second largest producer of bananas worldwide, next to Ecuador, and it continues to supply 95 percent of the total banana demand for the Asian market.