6 agribusiness arrangements subject for revocation

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Nov) – Six Agribusiness Venture Arrangements (AVAs) signed between agricultural firms and agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) may be revoked after being reviewed by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), a top official of the Department Agrarian Reform (DAR) said Thursday.

Of the six AVAs, five are in Mindanao and only one in Visayas, DAR officer-in-charge Rosalina Bistoyong said in an interview during the public hearing of the House Committee on Agrarian Reform on the impact of AVA at the CAP Grand Auditorium here.

She said the PARC, chaired by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, would revoke the AVAs of the agrarian reform beneficiaries with private investors due to the “very low lease rental payments and lack of provision in the AVA contract for settlement.”

In September 2016, Bistoyong said Duterte revoked the AVA between Marsman Estate Plantation Inc. and Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative.

The DAR’s Administrative Order 09, which is currently under review, defines AVA as “the entrepreneurial collaboration between ARBs and investors to implement an agribusiness venture involving lands distributed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).”

The order sets out various forms of AVAs, including, among others, lease agreements, management contract, marketing agreement, service contract and production/contract growing/growership, she said.

Bistoyong said they are discouraging the farmers to go into lease agreement with private investors as most of the complaints DAR receives from the ARBs stemmed from this kind of scheme, “especially so if the lease rental is very low as to not give them earnings or income to provide a descent life for them.”

“What is happening now is that they complain when they already have engaged with investors. It’s now difficult for us to intervene. If we would want to intervene it’s quite too late already,” she said.

She said DAR provides the ARBs legal assistance if they are faced with legal challenges on the AVAs.

AO 9 under review

The DAR’s AO 9 is under review to include new guidelines governing the AVAs in agrarian reform areas, Bistoyong said.

She said they would be requiring that all AVAs should be submitted for review before DAR to allow the agency to monitor the compliance of the agreement between the investor and ARBs.

“This is to ensure that the provisions of the AVA are strictly followed and no deviation that will divert and prejudice the rights of our ARBs,” Bistoyong said.

She said they noticed most of the AVAs that have been already reviewed have longer terms of 10 to 30 years wherein no changes can be made on the AVAs, displacing the ARBs awarded to them by government in the process.

Bistoyong said they are planning to shorten the terms to five years to make it easier to remedy any violations of the provisions of the contract through renegotiations between two parties.

Bistoyong said such arrangement leaves the ARBs without income when the CARP provides that smallholder tillers are supposed to be “managing, cultivating, and are supposed to be in full control of the land,” this being the “spirit of the law.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)