NPA attacks on banana plantations in Davao worry biz sector

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 January) – The city’s business sector expressed alarm over the attacks launched by the New People’s Army (NPA) against banana firms in Barangay Tamayong, Calinan District on January 13.

Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Arturo Milan said the security situation remains a concern, citing the recent attack against Japanese-owned Sumitomo Fruits Corporation and Ayala-owned Highland Banana Corporation in Sitio Tigon and Sitio Sicao in Tamayong.

He said the insurgency problem would create a negative perception among new investors as a conducive business and security environment influences their decision.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte tells the audience at the National Banana Congress in Davao City on October 7, 2016 that “the greatest promise of the banana growers in the Philippines … is really the law and order” as he urges everyone to help “put together a country that’s bereft of any revolutionary tax, extortion.” ROBINSON NIÑAL/ Presidential Photo

“The attractiveness is there but we need to do a lot because whether you like it or not, security is still an issue. Once this gets out of international news, this will really create a negative image. So, we should not get tired of talking about security in trying to allay fears of investors to come to Mindanao, particularly Davao,” he said.

Tony S. Peralta, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao Business Council executive director said the declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23 last year did have an initial negative effect on the business climate.

But he said it “somewhat simmered down” and the situation returned to normal.

He added that “security concerns are still really tied down to basic issue of poverty”.

He said there is a need to bring more farmer cooperatives and associations into the development process since Mindanao is largely an agricultural area.

Peralta said he hopes to bring opportunities for them by getting more support from ECCP’s European partners.

In a press statement released on January 15, National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Rubi Del Mundo owned up to the attacks against the banana companies.

He accused the firms of “exploiting workers’ welfare by dishing out barely liveable wages, subjecting them to inhuman working conditions, union busting and other repressive labor practices.”

He said workers of these companies were made to work from 12 to 16 hours daily and were “exposed to the harmful chemicals” which the firms allegedly continue to use.

“On the other hand, peasant families who initially expected to be alleviated from poverty by entering into agri-business venture agreements with SUMIFRU and Highland are faring no better under highly-exploitative arrangements that eventually cost them their lands,” the statement read.

On April 29, 2017, Lorenzo-owned Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) lost P2 billion after NPA members attacked its box plant in Mandug, Macondray plastic plant in Bunawan, and farm in Calinan.

The supposed fifth round of negotiation between government and the NDFP, scheduled on November 25 to 27, 2017 in Oslo, Norway was called off following the issuance of Proclamation 360 by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on November 23.

The proclamation ordered Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and the government peace negotiators to stop all peace talks with the NDFP for failing to show “sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged on acts of violence and hostilities, endangering the lives and properties of innocent people.”

Duterte issued the order following the NPA ambush on a police patrol vehicle in Bukidnon last November 9, 2017 that left two persons dead, including four-month old Walysha Machorao, and six others injured.

On December 5, 2017, Duterte declared the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines as terrorist organizations through Proclamation No. 374 pursuant to Republic Act No. 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)