DAVAO CITY – President Benigno Aquino III visited Davao City Monday to support the launch of a private-public venture to promote agri-business in Mindanao.
His arrival was greeted by protest from activists who accused the president’s move as a “sell out of farms for businesses.”
The event saw the launch of the Mindanao Inclusive Agribusiness Program, a partnership by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).
Organizers of the event claimed that the program aims to help farmers and low-income communities become participative in operations in the companies that would venture into agri-business investments in Mindanao.
Aquino in his speech said this move would help make Mindanao “a more attractive area for investments.”
“We are well aware of the great potential of Mindanao, especially in terms of agriculture. Mindanao, after all, is our country’s top source of rubber, cacao, pineapple, banana, coffee, and coconut” he said.
Aquino also recognized that Mindanao produces over 40 percent of the country’s food-supply, and more than 30 percent of the produce traded domestically, as well as the island’s “strong contribution to our fisheries production.”
The PBSP’s program prioritizes coffee, cacao, corn, palm oil and rubber. They also signed a memorandum of understanding with MinDA to promote the PBSP initiatives.
Nestle Philippines has vowed to tap 75% of its robusta coffee sources in local markets by 2020 and train 83,000 farmers in coffee production. Bali Oil plans to expand its oil palm operations to reach 22,500 households and Kennemer Foods International will train farmers in coca planting and generate jobs for 18,833 households in Palawan, Mindanao and Visayas by 2016.
PBSP also claimed they will help 62% percent of families to earn P18,000 (US$ 450) a month.
But prior to arriving at SMX Convention, Aquino was distracted by protesters led by the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan who snuck into SM Lanang and staged a flash rally.
Aquino turned his head towards protesters who shouted “Mindanao is not for sale” and “Noynoy pork-barrel king” in reference to allegations of misuse of government funds.
Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bayan, slammed the agri-business initiatives as “a program that will only benefit big businesses with production for banana, cacao, and palm oil.”
“(This would) place lands to foreign ownership, with unjust labor practices for Filipino workers and the production of goods for export. Farmers can no longer plant rice as they will become agri-workers,” Duazo added.
Their group pressed the government to come up with a program to redistribute lands for farmers and provide subsidies and support for farmers to ensure food and job security.
In an article, the economic think-tank Ibon foundation also criticized the agribusiness economy scheme.
“Allowing foreigners to own land for food production will not ensure stable food prices because the produce will eventually be exported back to the source countries at the prevailing global market prices. This will benefit agribusiness corporations and their governments tremendously by increased profits from utilizing cheap land and labor in the host countries and reselling at speculation-driven prices,” the group said. (davaotoday.com)