Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has joined the New People’s Army, El Nino and El Nina and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in inflicting damage to the banana industry for instigating an investigation into the Joint Venture Agreement between the Tagum Agricultural Development Company (TADECO) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) covering lands of the Davao Penal Colony in Davao del Norte.
A TADECO official described Alvarez as an economic saboteur.
The Cavendish banana industry, one of the country’s biggest export earners, has been reeling from sporadic attacks by the communist New People’s Army, extreme weather patterns and inconsistent policies of the DAR.
Alvarez has created a fourth battle front for the beleaguered banana industry, according to an official of TADECO.
On top of contending with NPA atrocities, bad weather and unpredictable government policies, the banana industry also has to deal now with political concerns, said Alex Valoria, president and CEO of TADECO.
“Now, all of a sudden, the JVA is being branded as void and illegal based on some legal hocus-pocus meant to satisfy political whims,” Valoria said.
Alvarez said the Tadeco-Bucor deal, covering more than 5,000 hectares of Dapecol, is illegal and disadvantageous to government.
On the instance of the Speaker, the House of Representatives is now conducting a congressional inquiry into the deal. Alvarez also has asked the Department of Justice to declare the JVA as illegal and has filed a graft charge with the Ombudsman against Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. in connection with the deal.
Floirendo is the son of the late banana magnate Don Antonio Floirendo, founder of TADECO, the biggest banana producing and exporting company in the country.
Both from Davao del Norte, Alvarez and Floirendo are long time friends and political allies.
Their rift started when their respective girlfriends quarreled in public during a festival event in Bacolod City. Alvarez also suspected that Floirendo was behind a plot to oust him as Speaker, which Floirendo denied.
Valoria has likened Alvarez’s move to declare as illegal the Tadeco-Bucor deal, to economic sabotage that threatens the banana industry.
“We cannot accomplish our goal of maintaining the global competitiveness of our banana industry if the government itself is the one sabotaging us,” he said.
Alvarez, Valoria said, is shaking down the investment climate in the banana industry that could lead to the fatal scenario of investors pulling out their investments.
“Investors can just pack, leave and relocate elsewhere,” Valoria said, adding that the ultimate losers in the Alvarez-Floirendo conflict are the hundreds of Tadeco workers and their families, including inmates of Dapecol.
The Tadeco-BuCor JVA involves more than 5,000 hectares of Dapecol to be developed into a banana plantation by Tadeco without cost to the government.
Now a major component of BuCor’s rehabilitation program, Tadeco hires Dapecol prisoners as farm workers paid with minimum salary to help rehabilitate the inmates and prepare them for reintegration into society.
“Our joint venture agreement with BuCor is a successful model for rehabilitating inmates who get to earn decent incomes that help them provide for their families while serving their sentences. This is a legally binding agreement that has proven to be aboveboard by the Congress, the Executive Branch and the courts,” said Valoria.
“This arrangement would not have lasted this long if it has not been proven to be beneficial for all the parties concerned — the government, TADECO and the inmates being rehabilitated inside the Davao penal farm,” he said.