NPA rebels attack Davao City banana company
BY ROGER M. BALANZA
The communist New People’s Army (NPA) mocked President Rodrigo Duterte when they launched violent attacks on a banana company in Davao City, the President’s home city.
“Ths lawless armed group appears to be mocking President Duterte because…the atrocities were committed in his home city of Davao,” said Hernani P. Geronimo, spokesperson of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC), a Davao City-based banana producing and exporting company.
On April 29, NPA rebels attacked LFC’s two packaging plants and farm in Mandug, at the outskirts of the city. The rebels burned plant equipment and exploded an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that killed a fish vendor.
The attack was a big blow to workers, business and the government, Geronimo said.
The rebels “did not only leave almost 1,000 workers jobless, but also displaced allied businesses that relied on the operations of our packaging plants. It also deprived Davao City and the national government of taxes that contribute to the well being of the nation,” he said.
On top of this, Geronimo, said the rebel attacks badly affected the local banana industry, one of the Davao Region’s biggest revenues and job generators, and top export.
“The attack on our plants will affect the export capability of the Davao region,” said Geronimo, noting that Davao Region director Maria Lourdes D. Lim of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), pointed out that Lapanday is one of the biggest producers of Cavendish bananas in Davao.
Banana industry players said communist rebels, unreliable government policies and extreme weather patterns are leading to the decline of the Cavendish banana export industry.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is accused by the industry for its “unreliable policies that disregard established practices and contracts.”
Banana producers, like Davao-based LFC and Marsman Estate Plantation Inc. (MEPI), and Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) have existing Agribusiness Venture Agreement (AVA).
AVAs between cooperatives formed by ARBs and banana plantation developers are among the most successful partnerships in the agriculture sector. The AVAs have enabled ARBs to earn more than farmers planting rice or other crops.
DAR wants to revoke the AVAs, stirring up confusion and uncertainties in the banana industry.
Geronimo said “the DAR’s move to break legitimate AVAs that have enabled many ARBs to earn better than decent wages and provided well for their families, doesn’t just violate the non-impairment clause contained in Section 10, Article III of the Constitution.”
According to Geronimo, DAR’s move, “also apparently emboldened the communist insurgents to continue with their extortion activities and attacks against banana plantations.”