No stop order on plantations in Bukidnon under ECQ, Zubiri clarifies

Apr. 16, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, Jr clarified claims that he did not order a cease operations of a multinational pineapple plantation and a group of banana growers during the enhanced community quarantine.

The governor’s pronouncement came on a press conference Thursday after the Department of Interior and Local Government issued him a show-cause order on the plight of the companies.

In the show-cause order, the DILG said both the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association Inc. (PBGEA) and Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI) have raised their concerns on (the province’s Executive Order 20, “since the aforecited provision did not include banana and pineapple industries in the enumerated establishments and business.”

Del Monte operates a 23,000-hectare plantation covering the towns of Manolo Fortich, Impasug-ong, Sumilao and Libona in Bukidnon.

Zubiri explained that he did not make any orders to stop Del Monte and the PBGEA from its operations after putting the province under enhanced community quarantine on March 21, and implemented EO 20 from April 13 to 26.

“I would like to state for the record that I have never ordered any agricultural banana and pineapple plantations to stop their operation,” Zubiri said, “Neither did the EO 20 categorically stated the closure of banana and pineapple Plantations.”

EO 20 restricts the movement of transportation and people in and out of Bukidnon and allows “essential establishments and businesses” to continue provided they instill precautionary measures in the workplace to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

Based on EO 20, those considered essential are groceries, supermarkets, wet markets; water refilling stations; food delivery services, courier services, and other delivery services; hospital, medical laboratories, pharmacies, and drugstores; banks, automated teller machines, savings, and credit cooperatives, money-transfer service; gas stations and LPG stations; funeral parlors; and public utility services.

The intention of EO 20, Zubiri said in his letter in response to DILG Undersecretary Epicamo Densing III, is to “ensure the prevention of the rise of PUM [persons under monitoring] and PUI [persons under investigation] cases as well as to ensure that no COVID-19 positive case will occur in the Province of Bukidnon.”

Zubiri pointed out in his letter that the companies “are not basic and essential commodities. Their product is for export. Large banana growers and exporters cannot affect our security.”

But the governor raised observations from local officials that these plantations did not implement physical distancing in the workplace.

“What is more alarming are their current working conditions particularly in their packing houses. The workers are almost shoulder to shoulder in handling their assigned tasks and social distancing is very difficult to observe,” he said.

“The above observations are not even mine. These are the observations of the 22 mayors of 20 municipalities and two cities in the province when we had our meeting prior to the subject issuance of EO. No 20,” Zubiri pointed out.

Zubiri said he will address the concerns of Del Monte and PBGEA soon.

The governor said “everything was taken into consideration” in formulating the EO 20, including the issuance of food assistance worth Php 700 million to all households in the province, plus counterpart assistance of Php 300 million from each municipality and city.(

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