The Davao del Norte Capitol has taken the side of Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (TADECO), the country’s largest banana producing and exporting company, against a move to cancel the company’s land deal with the Bureau of Corrections.
Governor Anthony del Rosario has approved a Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution supporting the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between the company and BuCor which has been questioned by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for alleged irregularities.
Del Rosario’s approval of Resolution No. 364 practically pits the Davao del Norte government in a collision course with Alvarez.
On the instance of Alvarez, the House of Representatives is conducting an inquiry into the JVA involving more than 5,000 hectares of BuCor property in Davao del Norte that Tadeco developed into a banana plantation.
Alvarez wants the deal cancelled alleging that the JVA is anomalous and disadvantageous to the government.
Tadeco maintains the legality of the JVA, first signed in 1969 and now an anchor program for rehabilitation of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol), whose inmates are hired by Tadeco as farm workers.
Resolution No. 364, signed on June 19, 2017 by 13 members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and approved by Governor del Rosario, underscored the JVA’s “large contribution to the economy of the Province of Davao del Norte.”
The House inquiry initiated by Alvarez has sent jitters to the banana industry, thousands of Tadeco workers and their families and support industries doing business with Tadeco, including local government units, over the potential impact on employment and the economy if Alvarez succeeds in having the JVA cancelled.
Tadeco has factored prominently in the economy of the province for nearly five decades, a fact known to Alvarez who represents Davao del Norte’s First District in Congress. Still to be fathomed is Alvarez’s real motive in going after Tadeco, owned by the family of Second District Congressman Antonio Floirendo, Jr., the Speaker’s long time friend and political ally. Both campaigned for President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2016 presidential bid, with Floirendo as one of the biggest financial contributors.
Some sectors accuse Alvarez of sabotaging the banana industry and the province’s economy for ganging up on Tadeco, one of Davao del Norte’s biggest job generators and taxpayers.
Local government units (LGUs) have joined the bandwagon of support for Tadeco and its JVA with BuCor, as the House conducts the probe.
The Tadeco-BuCor contract, involves an agreement covering over 5,000 hectares of Dapecol to be developed into a banana plantation by Tadeco, without cost to the government.
The local government units (LGU) of the Second District have aired their support for the contract, fearing the consequence of Alvarez’s move on employment, livelihood and the province’s economy in general.
Panabo City, the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) and the municipalities of Carmen, Braulio E. Dujali and the Liga ng mga Barangay of Sto. Tomas earlier passed separate resolutions supporting the Tadeco-BuCor JVA.
To further strengthen the voice of Resolution No. 364, the Davao del Norte Sangguniang Panlalawigan also enjoined the LGUs of District 1 – Alvarez’s congressional district — to convey their support to the contract, citing “its social and economic benefit to the entire province for so many years.”
District 1 includes the municipalities of Asuncion, Kapalong, New Corella, Talaingod and Tagum City.
The Dapecol lands covered by the agreement were swamplands, mangrove forests, and unexplored woodlands when initially offered to Tadeco for cultivation. There was no government contribution in the agreement other than the BuCor property.
The land, which remains the property of the BuCor, now form part of a sprawling Tadeco banana plantation that helps prime up the economy of the province.
The sharing agreement started in 1956 when Tadeco founder Antonio Floirendo Sr. was allowed develop into abaca plantation the 1,024 hectares granted to his company under Presidential Proclamation 247, which was issued on April 2, 1951.
The original contract was later expanded to a JVA in 1969 and two decades later, became a consolidated JVA on the strength of a presidential memorandum dated July 11, 1989 that was signed by Executive Secretary Catalino Macaraig, Jr., by authority of President Corazon C. Aquino.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution also highlighted the fact that the deal has been reviewed and approved by six Justice secretaries and upheld by 14 Department of Justice chiefs, including Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, Teofisto Guingona Jr., Silvestre H. Bello Jr., Neptali Gonzales, and Ricardo Puno.
In Resolution No. 364,the Sangguniang Panlalawigan members pointed out that the JVA has been instrumental in the transformation of the province into a booming agricultural territory.
On top of educational, medical and job opportunites , among other benefits that Tadeco extended to the community under the JVA, Resolution No. 364 also emphasized the JVA’s role in rehabilitation of the inmates before reintegration into mainstream society.
Under the contract, Tadeco hires inmates as farm workers who get minimum wage.
BuCor has acknowledged the succees of the Tadeco-Bucor JVA as a rehabilitation program and plans to adopt the program in Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan.