The Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (TADECO) paid nearly half a billion pesos in taxes in 2016, belying allegations its agreement to develop idle prison lands into a banana plantation was “disadvantageous” to the government.
An audited financial statement obtained from the giant Cavendish banana growing and exporting company, revealed that in 2016 alone, Tadeco paid to the government P438 million representing taxes and fees. The payments included real property taxes, business permits and fees, withholding tax on compensation, fringe benefits, and regulatory fees.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has called for a congressional investigation into the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between Tadeco and the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) over unproductive lands of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Sto. Tomas town in Davao del Norte.
The JVA was first signed in 1956. It was last renewed in 2013, after a review by Congress.
Under the JVA, Tadeco developed the land into a banana plantation without the government spending a single centavo. And as the JVA was primarily aimed as a rehabilitation program for inmates, Tadeco hired prisoners of Dapecol as workers paid with minimum wage.
Of the about 8,000 current workers employed in the banana farm under the JVA area, more than 1,000 are male inmates doing farm work and at least 100 women prisoners assigned to the packing plants.
Due to its success as a rehabilitation program for prisoners, BuCor is planning to adopt the TADECO-Bucor JVA for implementation in Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan.
Tadeco, founded by the late banana magnate Don Antonio Floirendo in the 60s, is credited with the economic progress of once dormant Davao del Norte. The pioneering Tadeco has also placed the country in the map of the world’s largest banana-producing countries.
Today it continues to pump-prime the country’s economy, and that of Davao del Norte and neighboring provinces of the Davao Region where it extended its banana plantations, with revenues from export Cavendish bananas, one of the country’s biggest dollar earners.
In its statement on financial benefits and assistance to Dapecol and its inmates and the community, Tadeco shelled out P1.62 billion over a 12-year period (2004-2016).
Tadeco’s biggest spending – P2.2 billion went to cultivation of the 5,300-hectare land covered by the JVA, at P400,000 per hectare in development cost.
In calling for a House inquiry, Alvarez (First District, Davao del Norte), said the Tadeco-Bucor JVA was “grossly disadvantageous” to the government.
On the prodding of Alvarez, the House committee on Justice and the committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability, were to begin conduct of a joint committee hearing on May 9.
Aside from his House resolution to conduct the probe, Alvarez also has filed a graft complaint at the Ombudsman in connection with the JVA against Davao del Norte First District Representative Antonio Floirendo, Jr., son the late Don Antonio.
Alvarez said Rep. Floirendo has “pecuniary interest” in Tadeco, and was a sitting congressman who failed to divest himself of his interest in the company when the renewal of the JVA was approved by Congress in 2013.
Alexander N. Valoria, president and CEO of the Antonio O. Floirendo Management and Investment Corp. (Anflocor), has disputed Alvarez’s claim, saying the Tadeco-BuCor JVA, is “legal and advantageous to the government.”
“The JVA has been reviewed, and found to be advantageous to the government numerous times by the Executive and the Legislative departments in past administrations,” Valoria said, adding that “the most recent review in the 15th Congress in 2012 once again arrived at the same positive conclusion regarding the JVA and its benefits to the government.”
Alvarez’s call on the House to probe the Tadeco-Bucor JVA and his filing of the graft charge against Rep. Floirendo was a surprise.
Both are from Davao del Norte and are long-time friends and political allies who backed the presidential bid of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Reports said that the fall-out between the two was sparked by the reported public quarrel between their two partners, and by rumors that Floirendo was behind a plot to replace the Speaker with former President now Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which Floirendo had denied.