The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today welcomed the announcement of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that the installation of 159 MARBAI farmers in the 145-hectare of lands in the SANID farm will proceed tomorrow, May 18, in Tagum, Davao del Norte.
Agrarian reform Secretary Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano said he will lead tomorrow’s installation as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte in a dialogue with MARBAI farmers last May 9 in Mendiola.
“Lapanday should cooperate and allow the peaceful installation of MARBAI farmers. We do not want a repeat of the April 18 and April 21 failed installations that were mainly due to Lapanday’s resistance and use of armed security guards and goons that blocked MARBAI farmers and the installation teams from DAR and the PNP’s non-compliance to the agreed installation process,” said KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.
Flores also lashed at Lapanday’s scheming and malicious actions pitting HEARBCO-1 against MARBAI as presented in a recent paid advertisement published in newspapers supposedly signed by HEARBCO-1 Board of Directors. “Both HEARBCO-1 and MARBAI members are agrarian reform beneficiaries. HEARBCO-1 is fully supportive of the installation of MARBAI as both camps reached an agreement or a ‘Kasabutan’ years ago wherein HEARBCO-1 will allow MARBAI to control and till the portion of the lands awarded to them.
“Lapanday is doing every dirty tactic in its book to prevent the return of the land to farmer-beneficiaries. The strong unity and collective action of farmers would not let Lapanday and oligarch greed to prevail,” Flores said.
MARBAI supporters from other farmer cooperatives HARBCO, GMARBAI, TADECO as well as peasant and people’s organizations from Davao, Compostela Valley and Manila will gather in Tagum, Davao del Norte tomorrow to support the installation.
Problem with AVAs
The circuitous problems in Lapanday arose from the implementation of non-land transfer schemes like leaseback and joint venture agreements allowed by the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Based on the defunct, pro-landlord program, “in situations wherein it is not economically feasible to subdivide the lands awarded to beneficiaries, farm workers were allowed to form cooperatives or associations which will deal with private corporations or businesses for the purpose of entering into a lease or growers agreement for up to 25 years.”
“AVAs effectively transferred ownership and control of awarded lands from the ARBs to landowners or businesses. It was through the AVA scheme that Lapanday was able to control more than 6,000 hectares of lands in Mindanao, mostly banana plantations with ARB cooperatives,” Flores said.
Since September 2016, the DAR started reviewing 433 AVA contracts covering 57,000 hectares of land to evaluate whether the contracts entered into by ARBs and their cooperatives are just and beneficial to the ARBs. “There are more Marbai-Lapanday exploitative arrangements in Mindanao. We expect more ARBs to launch protests and resistance against AVAs and plantation lords.”
In 1999, the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative I (HEARBCO I) entered AVA with Lapanday Foods Corp. through a 10-year Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement. Under the agreement, the farm workers planted, harvested, packed and delivered export quality Cavendish bananas to Lapanday.
In 2009, MARBAI, refused to renew their contract with Lapanday that was proven to be onerous and disadvantageous to farmers. Farmers discovered that Lapanday deliberately downgraded classification of bananas to dupe farm workers and buy their produce at a lower price. Lapanday buys class A bananas for export from farm workers at US$2.20 per rack of 13.5 kilos while Class B bananas are bought at US$1 per rack.
Farm workers and ARBs inside the Lapanday Foods Corp. banana plantation are earning only an average of P50 to 70 per day.
Thousands of farmers were unjustly terminated by the LFC in 2011 after MARBAI members rejected the renegotiated banana sales and marketing growership agreement between the HEARBCO 1 and Lapanday because it is disadvantageous to the farmworkers. Lapanday refused to grant the exit pay of terminated workers. For the past six years, they were not able to enter the plantation, losing their only source of livelihood.
After months of protesting outside the banana plantation, they were able to successfully enter the plantation and reclaim their lands last December 9, 2016. But they were met with violence and attacks by Lapanday’s armed guards and goons. The farmers stood their ground and they were able to assert their right to the land. However, MARBAI members were dispossessed of their farms at the end of 2016 when around 300 Lapanday security guards and goons forced them out of the landholdings.
Since then, MARBAI held series of mass actions that led to the 12-day farmers’ camp-out at Mendiola. ###
References: Antonio Flores in Manila, 0921-2726682
Pedro Arnado in Davao City, 0950-3563398