Banana exporter plans to expand in Maguindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 Jan) – A banana exporting company is investing P300 million for its expansion in Maguindanao, hoping that peace and order in the province will be sustained.

Edgar L. Bullecer, senior vice president of Unifrutti Philippines, confirmed during last Tuesday’s forum on “Maguindanao After 11.23: Building Accountability and Transparency” that the company is finalizing its expansion.

He said they have yet to finalize how vast the plantation will be, but noted that they will do it most likely this year because the company believes in the investment potentials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

John Perrine, chief executive of Unifrutti Philippines, said earlier that the company has successful investments in Maguindanao, thanks to its low labor costs with a daily minimum wage rate of about P210.

The company’s P1.9-billion plantation in the municipality of Datu Paglas currently has an area of 1,500 hectares.

Aside from Maguindanao, the company is also planning to expand its 600-hectare plantation in Lanao del Sur.

The company first planned expanding in Maguindanao in 2009, but it eventually shelved its plan after 57 people, many of them journalists, were masssacred on Nov. 23 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

Bullecer said the massacre became the setback in their expansion plan because foreign principals of the company were shocked upon learning about the incident.

He said, though, that “it is a reality that we have to live with,” noting that political personalities change through time anyway.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who replaced the long-time governor Andal Ampatuan now among the accused in the massacre, vowed to use his power so that peace and order in the province will be sustained.

Mangudadatu, whose wife and other relatives were among those killed in the massacre, said that his administration will also see to it that transactions with the provincial government will be transparent so that investors will be enticed to come and pour in their capital.

“We will also give incentives to investors,” he said. (MindaNews)