MASSIVE UNEMPLOYMENT FEARED
Local government officials of Davao del Norte are rallying behind the Tagum Agricultural Development Company (TADECO) citing the banana company’s contribution to the economic development of the province.
TADECO, the largest banana producer and exporter in the country based in the province, is being hounded by House Speaker Napoleon Alvarez with cancellation of a land deal the company entered into with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Alvarez has instigated the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry into the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between TADECO and BuCor covering more than 5,000 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony. He has also raised the issue to the Department of Justice.
In an apparent displeasure at Alvarez, local executives of Davao del Norte at the barangay and municipal levels have expressed their personal and official position against Alvarez and his attempt to have the House declare the JVA as illegal, and their support to the TADECO-BuCor deal.
TADECO is one of the biggest taxpayer and employer in the province and is credited for its contribution to its economic development.
Mayor Virginia Perandos of the municipality of Carmen pointed out that “TADECO has been playing a major role in the development of the entire province of Davao del Norte in general, and brought quality standard of living for the people with its employment opportunities, including many of the BuCor inmates.”
As part of a penal rehabilitation program for prisoners, TADECO hires inmates paid with minimu wage as workers in the area of the JVA that the company developed into a banana plantation.
Mayor Perandos’ support for TADECO was officially translated by members of the Sangguniang Bayan of Carmen on May 23 with approval of a resolution of support to the TADECO-BuCor JVA.
The resolution said that the “presence of banana companies including Tadeco boosted the economic activity not only of the Municipality of Carmen but throughout the Davao Region.”
The resolution also noted that TADECO and the other banana-producing farms in Davao helped transform Carmen into a first-class municipality in the province.
Massive unemployment in case Alvarez succeeds in having the JVA cancelled is the primary reason for the support for TADECO of the Sangguniang Bayan of Sto. Tomas.
In a resolution adopted on May 22, the local legislative body said that it is backing the BuCor-Tadeco accord “so as not to displace the thousand of workers and its contribution to the economic development of the communities and country.”
Its resolution likewise stated that Tadeco “contributed to the development of the economy in Mindanao through its huge plantation of Cavendish banana that provided employment to thousands of workers, more particularly from the Municipality of Sto. Tomas and other adjacent municipalities and cities within the Province of Davao del Norte.”
Associations of barangays are not to be left out and have also passed resolutions supporting TADECO and expressing dismay at Alvarez’s move.
The Liga ng Mga Barangay of Sto. Tomas, unanimously adopted a resolution last May 18 expressing support for the JVA, which it said, “helped to rehabilitate the inmates inside the Davao Prison and Penal Farm (DPPF) and prepare them for their eventual reintegration to society by providing them with a decent means of livelihood while serving their sentences to become a productive citizen in the community.
The Liga ng Mga Barangay of the Island Garden City of Samal noted in its May 10 resolution that the JVA provides employment to hundreds of workers in all of the 46 barangays within the city.
“Tadeco, Inc. extends various services to the community in terms of providing health- and education-related programs that values health and wellness of its employees and their families and grants full scholarship to qualified dependents to strengthen its corporate social responsibility through its programs and activities that being implemented to its nearby communities within the Province of Davao del Norte,” the resolution read.
VALORIA BELIES TADECO HAND IN ‘COERCION’ YARN VS. HOUSE
Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (TADECO) will not resort to dirty tactics in seeking a favorable resolution to its questioned joint venture with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) covering over 5,000 hectares of government land in Davao del Norte.
A circulating claim says that TADECO has been suggesting that the leadership of the House of Representatives has coerced three government agencies to declare as illegal the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between TADECO and the BuCor.
TADECO denies it is behind the circulating claim that hits the House and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
TADECO does not muddle in propaganda, said Alex Valoria, TADECO president and chief executive officer.
The House is conducting an inquiry into the 25-year JVA involving idle lands of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol), a line agency of the BuCor.
The probe was instigated by Alvarez who claimed that the deal was illegal and disadvantageous to the government.
TADECO says the JVA is legal and approved by Congress and government agencies including the Office of the President.
The circulating claim of arm-twisting by the House leadership is an apparent dirty missile fired to destroy Alvarez’s credibility.
The House probe inspired by Alvarez followed a public quarrel between the Speaker’s girlfriend and the partner of Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. Alvarez is also hounding Floirendo, whose family owns TADECO, with a graft case at the Ombudsman and a request at the DOJ to cancel the JVA.
TADECO is the country’s biggest banana producer and exporter.
Alvarez and Floirendo, both of Davao del Norte, are former political allies and long-time friends.
TADECO is largely credited for helping the the economic progress of Davao del Norte.
“Our organization that is recognized for its best practices does not muddle in propaganda,” said Valoria. Dirty tactics is not TADECO’s business, he said.
“To malign and mislead or argue issues without legal basis, is contrary to our corporate values,” said Valoria.
“While we maintain the JVA with BuCor is a contract legally negotiated, we take care not to muddle the issues as we only want to present arguments that are accurate, rational, and valid,” said Valoria.
Valoria issued the statement as the banana growing company took exceptions to the claim that it has been suggesting that the House leadership has coerced the Commission on Audit (COA), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) into an unfavorable stand against the TADECO-BuCor land deal.
It is not the mission of our organization that is recognized for its best practices to muddle in propaganda issues because “it is contrary to our corporate values to malign and mislead, or argue issues without legal basis,” Valoria said.
Valoria also reacted to the comment of Alvarez that TADECO is the only one claiming that the JVA is above board.
“We base our arguments on the approvals of the government authorities at the time the JVA was executed and the applicable laws and jurisprudence of the Philippines, he said.
“The JVA is a consensual arrangement, which has stood the test of time. We involve ourselves only in honest business dealings, not in bogus claims,” said Valoria in a retort to Alvarez’s claim the TADECO-BuCor deal is not a JVA, illegal and disadvantageous to government.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, in an earlier statement, said the TADECO-BuCor deal is void “as it goes against the Constitution and the Public Land Act.”
TADECO said Calida’s statement was “premature and uninformed” coming as it did while the DOJ was reviewing the JVA and the House conducting an inquiry.
Calida is not involved in both the review and congressional inquiry, said TADECO, adding that there is no case filed before the courts on the cancellation of the JVA.
Only the courts of law can declare that a contract is void, the company said.
TADECO suspects that Calida has ill motives on the issue.
“This is a clear case of prejudging our JVA. Perhaps the intent is to condition the minds of the public and pre-empt the review by the DOJ as well as the House probe,” TADECO said.
The Commission on Audit (COA), on the other hand, found that Tadeco “far exceeded” the 1,000-hectare limit when it established the banana plantation in violation of RA 1199.
COA argued the TADECO-BuCor deal is not a JVA but a leasehold agreement.
TADECO said COA’s findings were “based on the erroneous application of laws and constitutional provisions.”
The provisions COA cited as bases for the supposed violations cannot be applied to the Tadeco-BuCor agreement,” Valoria said.
“The Davao Penal Colony is a government reservation, thus, it is an inalienable land and cannot be the subject of a lease agreement as stated under RA 1199,” Valoria pointed out.
He emphasized that the contract between BuCor and Tadeco is a joint venture agreement, with the primary purpose of helping the rehabilitation of inmates of Dapecol.
“Its goal of making profits is only secondary to the main goal of inmate rehabilitation,” Valoria said, adding that BuCor and Tadeco are prohibited under the Public Land Act (Commonwealth Act 141) from entering into a lease arrangement.
Further pushing his argument, Valoria also cited the 1987 Constitution.
There is now an express provision in the Constitution allowing joint venture arrangement involving exploration, development and utilization of natural resources. Natural resources include inalienable public lands like the Dapecol, Valoria said.
Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, for his part also earlier, said the land deal was illegal, based on findings of the DOJ review committee.
At the House hearing, however, Aguirre told legislators that DOJ has no power to cancel the JVA.
Only the President can cancel the contract, he said.
TADECO-BUCOR JVA TO BE REPLICATED IN IWAHIG
The Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (TADECO) paid nearly half a billion pesos in taxes in 2016, belying allegations its agreement to develop idle prison lands into a banana plantation was “disadvantageous” to the government.
An audited financial statement obtained from the giant Cavendish banana growing and exporting company, revealed that in 2016 alone, Tadeco paid to the government P438 million representing taxes and fees. The payments included real property taxes, business permits and fees, withholding tax on compensation, fringe benefits, and regulatory fees.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has called for a congressional investigation into the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between Tadeco and the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) over unproductive lands of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Sto. Tomas town in Davao del Norte.
The JVA was first signed in 1956. It was last renewed in 2013, after a review by Congress.
Under the JVA, Tadeco developed the land into a banana plantation without the government spending a single centavo. And as the JVA was primarily aimed as a rehabilitation program for inmates, Tadeco hired prisoners of Dapecol as workers paid with minimum wage.
Of the about 8,000 current workers employed in the banana farm under the JVA area, more than 1,000 are male inmates doing farm work and at least 100 women prisoners assigned to the packing plants.
Due to its success as a rehabilitation program for prisoners, BuCor is planning to adopt the TADECO-Bucor JVA for implementation in Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan.
Tadeco, founded by the late banana magnate Don Antonio Floirendo in the 60s, is credited with the economic progress of once dormant Davao del Norte. The pioneering Tadeco has also placed the country in the map of the world’s largest banana-producing countries.
Today it continues to pump-prime the country’s economy, and that of Davao del Norte and neighboring provinces of the Davao Region where it extended its banana plantations, with revenues from export Cavendish bananas, one of the country’s biggest dollar earners.
In its statement on financial benefits and assistance to Dapecol and its inmates and the community, Tadeco shelled out P1.62 billion over a 12-year period (2004-2016).
Tadeco’s biggest spending – P2.2 billion went to cultivation of the 5,300-hectare land covered by the JVA, at P400,000 per hectare in development cost.
In calling for a House inquiry, Alvarez (First District, Davao del Norte), said the Tadeco-Bucor JVA was “grossly disadvantageous” to the government.
On the prodding of Alvarez, the House committee on Justice and the committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability, were to begin conduct of a joint committee hearing on May 9.
Aside from his House resolution to conduct the probe, Alvarez also has filed a graft complaint at the Ombudsman in connection with the JVA against Davao del Norte First District Representative Antonio Floirendo, Jr., son the late Don Antonio.
Alvarez said Rep. Floirendo has “pecuniary interest” in Tadeco, and was a sitting congressman who failed to divest himself of his interest in the company when the renewal of the JVA was approved by Congress in 2013.
Alexander N. Valoria, president and CEO of the Antonio O. Floirendo Management and Investment Corp. (Anflocor), has disputed Alvarez’s claim, saying the Tadeco-BuCor JVA, is “legal and advantageous to the government.”
“The JVA has been reviewed, and found to be advantageous to the government numerous times by the Executive and the Legislative departments in past administrations,” Valoria said, adding that “the most recent review in the 15th Congress in 2012 once again arrived at the same positive conclusion regarding the JVA and its benefits to the government.”
Alvarez’s call on the House to probe the Tadeco-Bucor JVA and his filing of the graft charge against Rep. Floirendo was a surprise.
Both are from Davao del Norte and are long-time friends and political allies who backed the presidential bid of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In Davao del Norte, it is well-known that Alvarez’ politics had long been nurtured by the Floirendos.
Reports said that the fall-out between the two was sparked by the reported public quarrel between their two partners; and by rumors that Floirendo was behind a plot to replace the Speaker with former President now Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which Floirendo had denied.
BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Due to its success as a rehabilitation program for prisoners, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is planning to adopt for implementation in Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan, its Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco).
The JVA involves about 5,300 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Sto. Tomas town in Davao del Norte that Tadeco developed into a banana plantation.
The 25-year deal is primarily aimed at the rehabilitation of the inmates with Tadeco hiring out Dapecol prisoners as farm hands paid with minimum wage.
“This rehabilitation program has been found to be very successful by BuCor, to the extent that the latter has even requested Tadeco to replicate the JVA program to its penal colony in Iwahig, Palawan,” said Tadeco in a statement.
In response to the BuCor request, in a report in BusinessMirror, Alexander N. Valoria, president and CEO of the Antonio O. Floirendo Management and Investment Corp. (Anflocor), said Tadeco has sent two missions to look into the situation in Iwahig. Tadeco is yet to propose its recommendations to start the project, said Valoria as a resolution was filed in the House of Representatives questioning the Tadeco-BuCor JVA.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has filed House Resolution 867 to investigate the allegedly “grossly disadvantageous” 25-year “lease contract” signed by BuCor and Tadeco.
Reports say that Alvarez’s motive in filing the resolution was his ongoing spat with Rep. Antonio Floirendo, Jr., top honcho of the Tadeco banana empire.
In separate statements, Tadeco and Valoria disputed Alvarez’s claim, saying the Tadeco-BuCor deal, a JVA and not a lease contract, is “legal and advantageous to the government.”
The JVA was first signed in 1956 and was last reviewed by Congress in 2012.
“The JVA has been reviewed, and found to be advantageous to the government numerous times by the Executive and the Legislative departments in past administrations,” Tadeco said.
Tadeco adds that “the most recent review in the 15th Congress in 2012 once again arrived at the same positive conclusion regarding the JVA and its benefits to the government.”
Even the “Department of Justice said during the congressional review that the JVA is above board,” Tadeco in its statement further added.
For his part, Valoria, in the report in BusinessMirror, said that even former President Benigno S. Aquino III, who was a senator then, “sat at the Blue Ribbon Committee reviewing this agreement.”
The bottom line of the JVA, according to Valoria, is “to help the government in providing a good correctional and rehabilitation program for convicts.”
Explaining the ground level mechanics of the JVA, Valoria said “prisoners of good standing” are chosen by Dapecol to work in the banana plantation.
Valoria said BuCor deploys every day in the Tadeco banana farm about 600 prisoners from its pool of 900 prisoner workers, “as part of the rehabilitation of the prisoners” under the JVA.
Valoria said the prisoner workers are paid minimum wage by Tadeco.
Many of these prisoners who worked in the Tadeco banana plantation were eventually hired by other plantations after serving their prison terms, said Valoria.
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