MANILA–The Davao-based Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI) has decried the alleged insensitivity of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to agitate and confuse agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) regarding the fate of their agribusiness venture agreements (AVA) with the company.
In a letter addressed to the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), which is chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte, MEPI president Antero Sison Jr. said he found it both appalling and disturbing that DAR representatives would resort to “deliberate and organized misinformation” when they held a consultative meeting in Tagum City last March 23 with members of the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (DAMARDEVCO).
Sison said the actions of the DAR representatives were “totally unfair, misleading and devoid of due process as we have not been given the opportunity to correct these obviously erroneous and biased statements made by them.”
“Surely, the behavior of the DAR representative(s) is not aligned with the spirit in which President Duterte would like the pending issues to be resolved, which is that of fairness and transparency instead of misinformation and confusion,” Sison said in his letter.
Last month, President Duterte instructed the DAR through the PARC Excom to meet with agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) belonging to three cooperatives –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) –and help them resolve their problems arising from the AVAs they have entered into with banana business giant MEPI.
DAR Undersecretary David Erro has said the ARBs’ main problem is the revocation of the lease AVA between MEPI and the three cooperatives. The lease AVA was approved for revocation by the PARC on September 12, 2016.
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.
At the dialogue with the ARBs of the three cooperatives held in Tagum in March, the DAR 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, who at present is not the ones cultivating their lands, 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.
The Starbenco group also prefers individual farming and to enter into a growership arrangement with other corporations.
For its part, the Sifarbco also requests for physical possession of their respective property to cultivate and manage their landholdings by themselves.
They also want to enter into a growership arrangement as they said they are capable of producing, managing and marketing their produce.
Meanwhile, Sison expressed alarm on what will happen to the more than 1,800 employees of MEPI who will become jobless and to their 8,000 dependents if the lease AVA is cancelled and MEPI shuts down.
Sison said that on MEPI’s part, it is “ready and committed to clarify and present factual and legal grounds” to back up its position.
He also said that “MEPI reserves its right to take the appropriate legal measures to protect its interest, including bringing this matter up to the Office of the Ombudsman.”