KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/23 October) — Communist guerillas operating in North Cotabato admitted having burned the boom spray truck of the Sumifru Corporation, owner of one of the biggest banana plantations in Southwestern Mindanao (Region 12) last Tuesday.
In a press statement issued today, Isabel Santiago, spokesperson of the Herminio Alfonso Command of Front 53 of the New Peoples’ Army Front (NPA), said the burning of the spray truck in Datu Celo, Magpet, North Cotabato, was a punishment they imposed against Sumifru for its alleged unfair labor practices.
Santiago cited the company’s alleged failure to pay benefits, including cost-of-living-allowance (COLA) and overtime pay, to their more than a thousand employees in towns of Magpet and Antipas towns.
Santiago also said the company is paying each employee wages way below the minimum. The daily wage of an employee in an agricultural company in the region is pegged at P224 per day, according to the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB).
The NPA also hit the company’s attempts to avert efforts of the employees’ union to push for a collective bargaining agreement with the management.
It said the P3,000-monthly land rental per hectare of the Sumifru Corporation to owners is also “depressing.”
The NPA belied reports the company is on the brink of bankruptcy because of low quality of bananas produced in the Philippines. ”Our bananas have wide markets in Japan and even in China,” she said.
Sumifru officials could not be reached for comment but Magpet Mayor Efren Pinol said the company, in a letter addressed to his office, is set to cease operations in North Cotabato early next year.
Some 1,000 plantation workers in the province stand to lose their jobs if Sumifru leaves.
The cost of the damage is estimated at P8 million, Pinol said. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)