TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte (March 25, 2017)—President Rodrigo Duterte instructed the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) through the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council Executive Committee (PARC Excom) to meet with agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) belonging to three cooperatives and help them resolve their problems arising from the agri-business venture agreements (AVAs) they have entered into with banana business giant Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI).
DAR Undersecretary David Erro, who is also Council Secretary of PARC said the ARBs’ main problem is the revocation of the lease AVA between MEPI and the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (Damarbdevco), Sto. Tomas Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (Starbenco) and the Sto. Tomas Individual Farming Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (Sifarbco).
The lease AVA was approved for revocation by the PARC on September 12, 2016 due to complaints by the ARBs/cooperatives against MEPI for gross violations of several provisions of the contract of lease.
AVAs are contracts entered into by an ARB or group of ARBs, on one hand, and an investor, on the other, which involve the possession of the land; distribution of the produce of the land, and commitment of the owners to produce certain crops.
Erro said the President, who is also the PARC Chairperson, approved the revocation of the lease AVA because of his desire to help the poor farmers. “He [the President] did not renege and stands by his decision in the revocation of the AVA. But because he is fair and considerate, the President instructed us to hear the request of parties who want to continue their AVA with MEPI.”
Dialogue with the cooperatives
As instructed by the President, the DAR led by Erro and Undersecretary for Field Operations Marcos Risonar yesterday conducted a dialogue with ARBs belonging to Damarbdevco, Starbenco and Sifarbco.
Risonar said the President instructed the DAR to allow those ARBs/cooperatives who want to get out of the contract. He stressed that all the parties must be given the right to be heard and to guide the ARBs in coming up with their respective decisions on whether or not they shall opt to continue with the lease AVA with MEPI or enter into growership agreement or any other agreement that they want.
At the dialogue with the ARBs of the three cooperatives, Risonar said the Damarbdevco wants a “win-win” solution where they shall continue their relationship with MEPI under a separate agreement. They also want a favorable lease or growership agreement subject to a decision by the cooperative via a general assembly.
“The Starbenco group, at present is not the ones cultivating their lands. They wish to take possession of, be installed in and cultivate individually their respective landholdings. Its members expressed capability to cultivate and manage their farms and market their produce,” Risonar said.
He said the Starbenco group prefers individual farming and to enter into a growership arrangement with other corporations and not with MEPI.
Meanwhile Sifarbco also requests for physical possession of their respective property to cultivate and manage their landholdings by themselves.
“Sifarbco’s position is to enter into a growership arrangement, but not with MEPI. They said they are capable of producing, managing and marketing their produce,” Risonar said.
“Now that we know the position of each cooperative with regard to their AVA with MEPI, the DAR and the PARC Excom will now formulate transition plans which would include provision of support services for ARBs among others,” said Erro.
Erro said the result of consultation with the three cooperatives would be presented to the President on the next PARC meeting on March 30, 2017.
Photo 1: DAR Undersecretary and Council Secretary of PARC David Erro assured the farmers of support from the DAR. Also in the panel from left to right: DAR-11 Assistant Regional Director Venchito Mandap, Regional Director Joseph Orilla, Erro, Undersecretary Marcos Risonar and PARC Secretariat Director James Arsenio Ponce.
Photo 2: A farmer-beneficiary showed to Erro where his lot is in the map. Looking on are DAR-11 Assistant Regional Director Venchito Mandap, Regional Director Joseph Orilla, and PARC Secretariat Director James Arsenio Ponce.
Photo 3: The ARBs belonging to the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (Damarbdevco), Sto. Tomas Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (Starbenco) and the Sto. Tomas Individual Farming Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (Sifarbco) pose for a photo with the DAR officials and the PARC Secretariat.
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