Group nixes banana, pineapple farm expansion in SouthCot

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/13 February) – An alliance of local government units has strongly opposed the further expansion of banana and pineapple plantations in the town of T’boli in South Cotabato.

The Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLDA) recently passed a resolution asking the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) to deny requests for more banana and pineapple plantations due to environmental concerns, said South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr., the body’s chairperson.

This came after members of the alliance conducted an ocular inspection in Barangay Salacafe in T’boli, a highland municipality.

The town hosts thousands of hectares of banana and pineapple plantations of Sumifru Philippines Corp. and Dole Philippines, Inc., respectively. They cannot be immediately reached for comments.

Sumifru is a subsidiary of Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. Dolefil, on the other hand, flexed its muscles in T’boli town after buying the bankrupt T’boli Agro-Industrial Development, Inc. years ago.

The AVLDA claimed that the banana and pineapple plantations have contributed to environmental degradation, particularly soil erosion and siltation of streams and rivers downstream, because they turned the land into vast open fields.

“The very essence of our resolution is to request the PAMB to desist from issuing clearances that will allow continuous banana and pineapple expansions in T’boli,” said Mayor Henry Ladot of Banga town in South Cotabato.

A report from the South Cotabato Information Office said the AVLDA board would like the PAMB to enforce “the no PAMB clearance, no environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issuance” policy not just in T’boli but also in other towns in the upper valley of the province.

The other upper valley municipalities are Banga, Surallah, Sto. Nino, Lake Sebu and Norala.

Without an ECC from the Environmental Management Bureau, plantation expansion would be illegal and subject to penalties.

Years ago, the EMB fined Upland Banana Corp., which Sumifru eventually acquired, P50,000 for unauthorized expansion in T’boli town.

AVLDA covers the municipalities of Lake Sebu, T’boli, Surallah, Sto. Nino, Banga, Norala in South Cotabato and Tacurong City and the towns of Isulan, Esperanza, Lambayong and Bagumbayan in Sultan Kudarat.

The Allah River traverses these municipalities.

The AVLDA board recommended massive tree planting in the upstream areas to prevent flooding in the low lands.

Two municipal members of AVLDA downstream have become perennial flash flood victims once heavy rains hit the elevated areas of Allah Valley due to the overflowing of the river.

These are the towns of Sto. Niño in South Cotabato and Lambayong in Sultan Kudarat, both rice producing municipalities in Region 12. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)