MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 Feb) — The Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI) management said it was unaware of the reasons why the New Peoples Army (NPA) attacked its compound Tuesday saying they had been providing gainful employment to thousands of residents in Bukidnon’s 10 municipalities.
In a press statement e-mailed to MindaNews Wednesday, lawyer Ramon Velez, DMPI senior manager, said company operations were not affected by the attack.
“It is unfortunate that this incident happened and we are unaware of the reasons why the rebels committed such acts of violence,” he added.
Jorge Madlos, NDF Mindanao spokesperson, said in an interview over Magnum FM CDO on Tuesday evening that the NPA launched the attacks to send a message that DMPI has to stop operations, blaming the firm for the big damage wrought by Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro in December 2011.
Madlos said “pineapple plantations in Bukidnon” worsened the impact of the storm. He said DMPI and Dole Philippines. are the same multinational corporations that allegedly abused laborers, amassed large plantation areas that could have been subjected to land reform, and damaged the environment. “This is our way to search for justice for the Sendong victims,” he said.
Madlos warned of more attacks if DMPI and other agribusiness companies do not heed their call for moratorium of expansion of plantations. “If they agree not to expand their areas, we might reconsider the attacks.”
He cited the fast expansion of the two plantations and added Sumifru, another agribusiness firm, is also on its list. He said these firms should vacate the areas so these can be subjected to land reform.
Velez said their firm has been operating in Bukidnon for 87 years and has provided gainful employment to over 20,000 people across 10 municipalities.
“Del Monte has undertaken numerous socio-civic projects that continue to improve the lives of many families in the province,” he added.
In his account, Velez said that at around 6p.m. on February 19, about 100 heavily armed men belonging to the New People’s Army attacked DMPI’s plantation office and truck yard in Camp Phillips, Manolo Fortich town.
The DMPI reported that the attack began with an attempt by rebels to rob a Caltex gas station along Damilag road.
The Philippine National Police responded swiftly “but an exchange of gunfire followed, during which rebels burned three heavy equipment units and a personnel bus in the Del Monte truck yard.”
Velez said the rebels also attempted to torch field equipment parked at Del Monte’s nearby plantation office.
The report quoted that the attackers shot to death a guard and wounded two security personnel.
He said DMPI employees were trapped in their offices but managed to escape “unharmed.”
After the encounter, Velez said the rebels escaped towards Brgy. Dahilayan, where they were pursued by the police and military.
DMPI announced that with the help of the police and local governments, they have “reinforced security measures” to ensure the safety of their workers and the surrounding community.
But Velez stressed that their key assets at the plantation and cannery have been safely secured. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)