Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday tried to deliver a death sentence on the banana industry, the country’s major dollar-earning export, by forcing a banana plantation in Davao del Norte to remove bio-security barriers that would protect bananas from the deadly Panama Disease (Fusarium Wilt).
The bio-security measures – consisting of checkpoints, foot baths and tire baths— ordered under Administrative Order No. 1 by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), a line agency of the Bureau of Agriculture (DA), were installed in 2012 by Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco) to protect the farm against Panama Disease.
Tadeco and other banana farms in the Davao Region were then under severe attack by the Panama Disease. The plant disease remains a threat to the industry today.
The fungus that attacks banana roots almost crippled the banana industry in Latin American countries in the 80s and 90s.
On March 20, during a House committee hearing, Alvarez muscled the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Tadeco to open a road with bio-security barriers to the public, even as Tadeco protested that it would open the farm to Panama Disease infestation.
Bucor Superintendent Gerardo Padilla dismissed Alvarez, saying that he would open the road only if ordered by the Department of Agricultural and the Davao del Norte provincial government.
The March 20 hearing tackled a House resolution initiated by Alvarez raising questions on the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between Tadeco and BuCor involving the reservation area of the penal colony.
At the joint hearing by the House good government and public accountability committee and the justice committee, Alvarez rejected BuCor and Tadeco’s reasoning that roads in the area had to be restricted to prevent the spread of Panama Disease.