Banana players yet to finish new draft of the Banana Industry Development Act

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 5 Sept) – Banana players in the Davao Region have yet to finish the new draft of the proposed Banana Industry Development Act (BIDA) that will pave the way for the creation of a council that will oversee the growth of the industry.

Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) 11 executive director Marizon Loreto said Monday they are in the process of harmonizing the “comments” of the different banana players on some provisions of the proposed measure that was presented during the Banana Congress October 6-8 last year.

She said they will tackle the new draft in this year’s Banana Congress slated October 12-13at the SMX Convention Center Davao.

Once passed, Loreto said it will establish the Banana Development Industry Council (BIDC), a body “that will oversee the affairs of the whole banana industry sectors.”

She said the council will also be platform for advocacy, to help out the industry players in terms of finding their markets, rationalizing the prices and protection of the industry.

“It’s not just to look at different sanctions you have to impose on, especially in irregular practices. Actually, the BIDC will also try to look into, to ensure that the operations, practices are being observed such that everybody will toe the line,” Loreto said.

She said they also hope to address the “pole-vaulting” practices by “professionalizing the banana industry.”

Loreto said they also hope to unify both small and big banana producers of Mindanao.

“The banana industry is already more than 50 years in existence. It does not even have that kind of mandate, except that each of them takes its own initiatives. But something that will put together everything, something that will unify the concerns of the industry, is really not happening,” she said.

Loreto said it would be better if the whole industry will come up with a “single voice so that they will be properly heard and their concerns will be acted upon in the soonest time possible.”

She said Philippines is already far behind in terms of establishing this council.

Loreto said they are looking at Australia, as well as countries in Latin America, as model in the creation of the council.

During last year’s Banana Congress, President Rodrigo R. Duterte supported the creation of the body, emphasizing that the law establishing the National Banana Industry Council “is long overdue,” considering the issues hounding the players and the pests and diseases that have to be addressed immediately.

Once passed, he said it will also pave the way for the establishment of the National Banana Research Center that will find cure to the most dreadful diseases that hit bananas, like the Fusarium-wilt, or the Panama disease, that has affected over 15,500 has. in the Davao Region.

Duterte said at that time that he did not sign the executive order prepared by the industry leaders on the proposed council and research center as he explained there is a need to have a law so that these will get sufficient funding.

“The proposed measure is the creation of a Banana Industry Development Council. Now it should be a law, I cannot give executive order. So, because if you need something, money or otherwise; if you need government to intervene – the legal standing has to be something like there is a law, the force of law in the creation of the banana research institute,” he said.

Resume GRP-NDFP negotiations

But for PHILEXPORT president Ferdinand Marañon, there’s no better solution than resuming the peace negotiations between government (GRP) and National Democratic Front (NDF) to address the extortion activities and attacks on heavy equipment of the banana companies.

Marañon said Monday he hopes the talks will continue between the GRP and NDFP and forge an agreement that will restore peace and other in Mindanao in order to find a solution on persistent attacks reportedly perpetrated by the New People’s Army members against major banana producers in Mindanao.

“To me, I cannot see any solution,” he said.

Marañon believes that the talks would be a “long-term” solution to the decades-long rebellion in Mindanao, hampering growth and development in some parts of the island.

The fifth round of formals talks scheduled on may 27 to June 2 in The Netherlands was cancelled, with Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP), saying that the enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations was still not present. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)