Antonio R. Floirendo Jr. of the first district of Davao del Norte minced no words in branding the recent legislative inquiry in the House of Representatives on the joint venture agreement (JVA) between the Davao Prison and Penal Farm (DAPECOL) and the Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. (TADECO) as a witch-hunt.
In the last Feb. 7, 2018 inquiry conducted by the committees on Justice and the Good Government and Accountability, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez invited resource persons who were not privy and did not have inside knowledge of the deal.
Rep. Floirendo lamented that instead of seeking the truth and discussing issues based on documentary facts, the Speaker has turned the hearings into an inquisition, imputing malice on the JVA and maligning the Floirendo family for imagined accusations.
“For hitting a blank wall,” the congressman said, “Mr. Alvarez resorted to manufactured charges, accusing my family of poll manipulation, preventing people from entering DAPECOL, a public land, and pursuing claims that the Dapecol lands were not properly surveyed.”
The congressman said “People go in and out of Barangay A. O. Floirendo in my district every single day. No one is being limited access to public areas — and this is true during election periods. Movement of personnel, however, is limited in certain areas for biosecurity reasons and in compliance with the guidelines set by phytosanitary agencies of foreign trade partners.”
Barangay A. O. Floirendo is the place where thousands of TADECO banana plantation personnel and workers are residing.
Under stringent banana export regulations, countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Middle East require that banana products purchased from the Davao must follow strict quarantine rules and other regulatory standards.
Obviously incensed, the lawmaker asked: “Has the TADECO-DAPECOL public inquiry gone so low that it has become possible to speculate that all inmates in the prison colony will be future resource persons in the House?”
Rep. Floirendo warned that the continuing imputations chiefly focused on TADECO and, by extension, the banana plantations of Davao region, will have long-term repercussions in the way foreign buyers will assess the stability of the industry.
Only very recently, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the country’s banana production in 2017 expanded by almost three percent to 9.166 million metric tons (MMT) from 8.903 MMT in 2016, which greatly improved our export numbers amid unwarranted attacks.
“Going by what the House has been doing so far,” Rep. Floirendo added, “there’s no arguing the inquiry on the TADECO-DAPECOL accord will continue, chiefly to feed the personal interest of certain individuals who are interested in taking over the banana industry.”