DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The triumphant members of Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries did not only materially own back their lands from years of control through the burdensome agreement with Lapanday Foods Corp. but an assertion of social justice.
This was the affirmation made by peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in a statement on Thursday.
Members of MARBAI were successfully installed back to their lands on Thursday at the LFC plantation in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.
Around 5,000 members and supporters joined the installation activity as armed guards of LFC continued to show their presence in the area.
The MARBAI members peacefully claimed back their lands.
“Farmers should have the control over the lands without any intervention and retaliation from Lapanday and its armed security,” Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP said in the statement.
Flores emphasized that MARBAI’s installation was an assertion of social justice against years of land grabbing and exploitation committed by LFC against agrarian reform beneficiaries.
He also pointed out that the successful installation of MARBAI farmers was based on the agreement forged during the dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte.
The plan was enforced by an inter-agency task force formed during the dialogue, he added.
“This morning, Lapanday maintained its security guards inside the locked premises of the banana plantation and refused to comply with the break open order issued by the Sheriff as ordered by DAR. MARBAI farmers asserted and stood their ground until they were able to break open the gates and enter the plantation,” the KMP leader said.
The 145-hectare of lands is part of the 6,000-hectares of lands acquired by Lapanday through agribusiness venture arrangements (AVAs) that was described by farmers as onerous.
The KMP leader said that there are more Marbai-Lapanday exploitative arrangements in Mindanao and expect that more ARBs will launch protests and resistance against AVAs (Agribusiness Venture Agreements) and plantation lords.
In a previous statement sent to the media here, KMP said “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, described by KMP as a defunct and pro-landlord program, allows subdivision of lands awarded to beneficiaries and farm workers through the formation of cooperatives or associations.
These cooperatives or associations can seal deals 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.
KMP added that since September last year, the Department of Agrarian Reform started reviewing a total of 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 on their side.
The peasant group added that in 1999, the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative I (HEARBCO I) entered an AVA with Lapanday 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 the 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,” the group said.
Farm workers and ARBs inside the Lapanday Foods Corp. banana plantation are earning only an average of P50 to 70 per day.
The group added that thousands of farmers were unjustly terminated by the Lapanday in 2011 after MARBAI members rejected the renegotiated banana sales and marketing growership agreement between the HEARBCO 1 and Lapanday.
The growership agreement was disadvantageous to the farm workers, KMP said.
“Lapanday also 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,” the group added. (davaotoday.com)