Banana and pineapple plantations have become easy target of attacks by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) due to a Philippine National Police (PNP) directive requiring their security personnel to deposit their high-powered firearms with the PNP.
Without high-powered firearms against the well armed NPAs, security guards are virtual sitting ducks.
“The NPA will laugh at our shotguns and pistols as they can now easily overrun our facilities,” said Alexander Valoria, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA). “Without a chance to defend ourselves, many may see that there is no other choice but to pay the NPA’s revolutionary tax,” Valoria said.
“We are respectfully appealing to authorities to review this recent directive as we are left at the mercy of the NPA and other lawless elements which, in most cases, are now able to carry out their attacks using high-powered guns,” Valoria said.
Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) president Ronald Go said businessmen in Mindanao no longer want to add to the security concerns that law enforcement authorities are currently facing in the island in light of the declaration of martial law.
According to Go, properly armed security personnel can help government in the maintenance of law and order.
“This is why the business community is requesting the government to at least give us some leeway to allow us to protect our businesses from the NPA and other criminal elements,” Go said.
Valoria and Go, however, welcomed the recent assurance made by the police leadership in Mindanao that it will take steps to fill the security gap left by the recent directive requiring private entities to deposit their high-powered firearms with the PNP.
Among these measures, Valoria said, is the PNP’s move to speed up the training program for Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) groups that will be deployed to augment security forces in Mindanao.
Valoria said PBGEA members operate banana and pineapple farms in areas that are infested with NPA insurgents “and it is precisely the presence of our high powered firearms that deter the NPA from attacking us.”
“This has been proven in the past,” Valoria said.
He moaned that the NPAs continue their attacks on plantations.
Valoria said that just two months ago, NPA guerillas torched some P4 million worth of farm equipment at a pineapple plantation owned by Del Monte Philippines in Davao City, less than a week after government negotiators and the NDF agreed on an interim joint ceasefire agreement.
The NPA has resorted to burning equipment and facilities in fruit plantations in Mindanao to force companies to pay them “revolutionary taxes.”
Among the facilities that the communists have destroyed include a banana processing plant in Pantukan, Compostela Valley last Feb. 5; a pineapple plantation in Bukidnon on Feb. 25; Dole’s cold storage plant and other equipment in Barangay Sinawal in General Santos City last March 30; and three container vans loaded with fruits in Maragusan, Compostela Valley on March 25.
The following day, the NPA opened fire on a spray plane in Tagbina, Surigao. The insurgents continued with their attacks in Sumifru (Philippines) in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on March 27.
Besieged by the continuing extortion activities and attacks by communist insurgents on their businesses, Davao traders led by Valoria and Go have thrown their support behind Senator Panfilo Lacson’s call to put off peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) until the group can demonstrate its sincerity in pursuing the peace process.
Valoria and Go appealed to the government to heed Lacson’s call and take into account the damage inflicted by communist insurgents on Mindanao’s businesses.
Valoria said the NDF obviously has no control over the NPA, which has continued its attacks not only on government installations, but also on private businesses, especially those operating banana and pineapple plantations in Mindanao.
Go said “the continuing atrocities of the NPA prove that there is no central communist leadership that is capable of pursuing genuine peace with the government.”