Village officials force firm to fulfill pledge to repair roads

The Dole South Skyland-Stanfilco Division Dangcagan Farms, which operates a banana plantation in Dangcagan town vowed to start road repair work in Barangay Osmeña this week, five months after it pledged "immediate repair of roads." 

Barangay chair Alejandro Durog told MindaNews in a telephone interview that Dole failed to repair barangay roads and comply with other commitments forged during a meeting between the firm and representatives from Osmeña and three other villages, on July 24, 2008.

Durog said Dole officials just mouthed excuses when asked about their commitments between July and December 2008.

He said despite follow-ups, the firm did not act until the village council implemented the ordinance prohibiting the passage of trucks and other vehicles during rainy days to prevent further damage (to the roads).

He said the barangay prevented trucks from passing through the barangay road from evening of January 1 to evening of January 2 using bamboo poles as barricades.

This, Durog said, forced the firm to talk to them squarely and ask for seven days until January 10 to start road repair work.

He said an official from the firm's head office in Davao City talked to them and agreed to all the demands in a meeting with municipal officials on January 5.

But he said they were told that they could not grant all of the demands all at once. "But they vowed to prioritize the road project," he said.

"He was very thankful we allowed them to pass again," Durog said on Monday night quoting the unnamed Dole official from Davao City.

Durog told MindaNews that aside from the repair of roads, the firm also pledged to act on complaints against a biomass plant for organic farming that releases foul odor, the safety of a waste lagoon along the road, and unauthorized water projects.

Since 2001, Dole has been operating an estimated 300-hectare banana plantation in the villages of Osmeña, Kapalaran, Sagbayan, and Sto. Rosario all in Dangcagan, Durog  said.

The firm has since reacted against the ordinance. In a letter on January 2, 2009, they claimed to have incurred losses amounting to P1.2 million due to the blockade.

Juren Ylanan, OIC zone councilor of Dole South Skyland, said the barricade "already stretched the limits of every individual benefiting from the company's presence.”

He said at least 170 employees "stayed home" because they could not harvest due to “impeded manufacturing operations."

Ylanan in the letter also called Durog's action "pure extortion or robbery,” a form of harassment.

Durog was accused of implementing the blockade to pressure the firm into contracting his vehicle for the firm's trucking service. The farm facilitator of the firm already refused the offer since there was no vacancy.

Durog wrote to the firm's head official in Valencia City on December 15, 2008 asking for a “simple gift” of being prioritized in contracts as landowners.

The barangay, he countered, implemented the ordinance even before the entry of the company. The ordinance was approved on August 6, 1998.

He admitted having personal interest in company operations, but told MindaNews it is not the foremost reason. "Here is a barangay ordinance, it is above me," he said.

DXDB reported the firm was mum on the issue when reporters approached an official at its office in Valencia City. They were instead referred to the firm's Davao City office for comments.   

Dangcagan mayor Edilberto Ayuban confirmed the negotiation cited by Durog on January 5 in an interview with DXDB Tuesday morning. "It has been settled," Ayuban said without giving details.

He admitted having presided over the dialogue between officials of Dole and the four barangays in July 2008. "Apparently, they (Dole) did not pay attention," he said.
"Tingali insakto pod ang gibuhat sa barangay kay wa man sila gitagaan og pagtagad," (Maybe the barangay's action was proper since they were not given attention) he said.

The mayor said the company agreed to attend to the roads, although it cited heavy equipment as a reason for the delay.

He said the municipal government will help provide heavy equipment just to have the roads repaired "as promised."

He said the municipal government conducted repair work on the roads in Kapalaran village using the local budget after the firm reportedly failed to do it.

He noted that the company offered to repair barangay roads when they canvassed for lands for leasehold in the villages.  (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)