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.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez blew his top as an official of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) spurned his order to re-open to public use farm roads inside the Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco) farms in Davao del Norte, on Tuesday, March 20.
At the joint hearing by the House committee on justice and the committee on good governance and public accountability, Alvarez ordered Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) Superintendent Gerardo Padilla to “re-open” the roads to public use.
Saying that he could not follow the Speaker’s order, Padilla told Alvarez that only the Davao del Norte provincial government and the Department of Agriculture can order the re-opening.
Angered by the response, Alvarez accused Padilla of “ gross ignorance.”
“You know Mr. Padilla, you are displaying your gross ignorance. Paano ka ba naging director diyan? Ito simple lang ito, isipin mo ganyan yung takbo ng utak mo,” Alvarez snapped at the chief of Dapecol, a line agency of BuCor.
Not content with his insulting verbal attack, Alvarez also recommended to the House committees the transfer of Padilla for “gross ignorance of his duties and responsibilities.”
The hearing is the third on a House resolution initiated by Alvarez on the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between Tadeco and BuCor involving about 5,300 hectares of the Dapecol reservation area.
Alvarez alleged the JVA is “unconstitutional and disadvantageous to the government.”
The JVA was first signed in 1969 with its renewal approved by the President and Congress.
The JVA allowed Tadeco to develop the Dapecol reservation area into a banana plantation, with BuCor earning shares from the production of exportable Cavendish bananas.
Tadeco has also hired as farm hands prisoners serving term in the penal colony, as part of rehabilitation program for the inmates.
On top of the inquiry into the JVA, Alvarez has also sought the “re-opening” of the farm roads alleging that Tadeco barred public passage.
Tadeco denied Alvarez’s claim saying that the public enjoys free passage through the farm roads.
Tadeco President Alexander Valoria told the hearing that bio-security measures have been adopted in the farm to protect bananas against diseases.
Tadeco has installed checkpoints and foot baths and tire dips at the entrance to the farm as ordered by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
In 2012, BPI, an agency of the Department of Agriculture, issued Department Order No. 1, ordering banana plantations to install checkpoints and anti-pest measures to protect against spread of Panama Disease (Fusarium Wilt), which then was attacking bananas. The order remains to this day with the deadly root-disease continuing to be a major threat to the banana industry.
The BPI order was backed by the Davao del Norte capitol with a resolution of support.
The BPI order and the capitol resolution were the legal instruments invoked by PPadilla in shooting down Alvarez’s order to “re-open” the roads inside the Tadeco farm.
OCULAR INSPECTION BY MEDIA PROVED SPEAKER ALVAREZ A LIAR
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was lying when he alleged that banana company Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco) closed off from the public farm roads in its plantation in Davao del Norte.
Journalists belonging to the Davao del Norte Media Organization confirmed as “fake news” the claim of Alvarez, during a recent media-organized ocular inspection of the Tadeco farm.
The false claim is among issues leveled by Alvarez (DavNor, 1st District) against Tadeco, owned by the family of 2nd District Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo.
Alvarez is a former friend and political ally of Floirendo, who is credited with having funded the congressman’s past election campaigns before he became Speaker under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
After a break-up last year triggered by a public quarrel between their girlfriends, Alvarez filed a graft complaint before the Ombudsman against Floirendo.
The Speaker also initiated a House inquiry into the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between Tadeco and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) over about 5,300 hectares of Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) that Tadeco, the country’s largest banana producing and exporting company, developed into a banana plantation. The JVA provided share in revenues for BuCor and, as part of a penal rehabilitation program for inmates, employed as farm workers hundreds of prisoners serving time in the penal colony.
Alvarez’s graft case against Floirendo and his initiative in the House to question the legality of the decades-old Tadeco-BuCor land deal are widely criticized in Davao del Norte. Tadeco is one of the province’s biggest taxpayer and employer.
The alleged farm road closure is a propaganda line peddled against Floirendo, Tadeco and Davao del Norte Governor Anthony del Rosario, a cousin of Floirendo, by a horde of fake broadcasters apparently linked to the Speaker, who is seeking reelection in the 2019 election.
About 30 members of the media group who joined the inspection found out that Tadeco did not prevent public use of the farm roads.
However, Tadeco required vehicles and people to undergo tire and foot baths before entering the plantation.
The foot bath and tire dips are mandated on Tadeco by a 2012 order of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to protect plantations against deadly banana diseases.
BPI issued the order as banana plantations in Davao del Norte were devastated by the deadly Panama Disease (Fusarium Wilt).
The root disease Panama Disease, like the banana leaf disease Black Sigatoka that earlier also attacked Davao Region farms, remain a major threat to bananas in the region.
The twin threats to the exportable Cavendish banana industry, the country’s second biggest dollar export earner, crippled the banana industry in Latin America and South Asian countries in fatal attacks in the 70s and 80s.
Panama Dosease first surfaced in the country in 2012 prompting BPI to issue an order imposing bio-security measures in all banana plantations throughout the country.
Critics and political foes have impregnated their media machine with a horde of swindlers and racketeers in broadcast media, particularly the so-called “Last Two” broadcasters, who have been hurling mud and fake news without let-up against Davao del Norte Second District Congressman Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr. and the Floirendo-owned Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco).
“Last Two” broadcasters, fake mediamen who are not licensed by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas (KBP), sell “winning numbers” to listeners, especially from the provinces, in a massive swindling operation that has victimized thousands of gullible lottery bettors.
Carrying fake names and selling alleged winning numbers for as low as P300 to as high as P20,000, the fake broadcasters brag of connections to “insiders” in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes (PCSO), which runs Philippine lotteries including the Small Time Lottery (STL).
The broadcasting racket is heard in AM and FM radio stations in Davao City like DXKT, DXOW, DXGO, DXRR, Radyo Ukay and others, and the provincial FM stations of Radyo Natin.
Alongside selling fake winning numbers to lottery addicts, the broadcasters spice up their airtime with black propaganda against Floirendo and Tadeco.
Apparently paid hefty sums, the ‘Last Two’ racketeers, who broadcast their programs in paid “blocktime” radio hours (up to P20,000 per month for one hour of airtime), go on air with their swindling racket and black propaganda from early morning up to midnight.
The massive smear attacks in the broadcast media comes as House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a former friend and political ally of Floirendo, is poised to run for reelection in Davao del Norte’s First District in the 2019 election.
Alvarez’s politics was practically dead after an earlier short-lived term in Congress and since he bowed out of the political scene after serving as transport secretary during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. His stint in the Arroyo regime was marred by allegations of his link to a controversial multi-million rehabilitation project at the Manila airport.
He hitched a ride on the Duterte-for-President bandwagon in the 2016 election and backed by Floirendo and Tadeco run anew, after more than a decade of political hiatus, and won in the Davao del Norte First District congressional race.
Alvarez has broken relations with Floirendo, an unpopular and widely criticized move in the province aware that Floirendo and Tadeco were long-time political backers of Alvarez.
Reports had it that the Alvarez-Floirendo split was sparked by a public quarrel between their girlfriends.
Soon after he became the Speaker, Alvarez hounded Floirendo with a graft case at the Ombudsman and initiated a congressional inquiry into the legality of Tadeco’s decades-old Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) over about 5,300 hectares of the Dapecol reservation area that the company developed into a banana plantation.
Except that the fake “Last Two” broadcasters are known for their broadcasting pattern of praising Alvarez and attacking Floirendo and Tadeco, there is however no proof to link them to Alvarez or to speculations that the Speaker is awash with money to fund an expensive black propaganda campaign in media.
However, Davao del Norte Governor Anthony del Rosario, a cousin of Congressman Floirendo, has questioned where the Speaker got P55 million to spend for his birthday bash in Tagum City in January.
Del Rosario raised his query in his speech at a recent Davao del Norte Liga ng mga Barangay event in Davao City.
Short of saying that Alvarez was penniless before he became Speaker, Del Rosario said Alvarez had “begged” from Floirendo for funds to run his election campaign in the 2016 election.
Alvarez’s lavish three-day birthday bash was attended by senators and congressmen, high government officials, movie stars and VIPs, among others.
Reportedly, three planes were allegedly chartered to fly to Davao City, while hundreds of cars were hired for trips to Davao del Norte’s capital city of Tagum. The report, however, did not tie them to the birthday bash.
In the meantime, just about a year to the 2019 polls, Alvarez’s political future appears doomed after presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte vowed to campaign against his reelection.
This developed as the Speaker, the secretary general of President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), described as an “opposition,” and without the blessing of President Duterte, the regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), recently formed by Mayor Duterte with Davao Region political leaders.
Going ballistic, Mayor Duterte called Alvarez an “asshole” and urged congressmen to oust the Speaker.
She said Alvarez has become a liability to the nation and the administration of President Duterte.
Following the Sara Duterte-Alvarez spat, governors of the Davao Region’s five provinces led other local officials in resigning en masse from the PDP-Laban to join HNP, which was expected to put up a complete line-up in the 2019 regional elections against Alvarez and his slate under the PDP-Laban banner.