A big plantation propagating exportable Cavendish bananas for the last two years was recommended to city authorities for closure after it was found to be operating illegally, meaning without any kind of permit from the city government and other government agencies in Purok Makatol of Barangay Magsaysay in Marilog, Davao City.
The recommendation for stoppage came from the multi-sectoral, multi-agency Davao City Watershed Management Council (WMC) after the couple operating the plantation appeared before the Council to answer several questions from the members.
The WMC, presided by City Administrator Lyka Lopez, acted on the report from Camilo Victoria, a forestry officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, who is a member of the WMC, who said that the banana farm of more than 30 hectares was located inside a timberland and a protected area within the jurisdiction of the watershed area of the city.
Victoria said that under the law, plantations are not allowed inside declared protected areas.
When queried, Teofilo Lopiba and his wife admitted to the Council that indeed they don’t have a government permit and related documentary requirements such as Environment Clearance Certificate, approval of the lumad communities since the area is within ancestral domain.
They said that they bought the area which was supposedly about 60 hectares for more than P5 million from a barangay captain who was later murdered. The couple said that they borrowed the money from a commercial bank. When they had the land surveyed, they found that the area was only more than a little over 30 hectares.
The couple said that they were told the area was earlier cultivated by a Korean and then a Chinese but that these businessmen later gave up.
The Lopiba couple said they did not know that it is against the law to maintain a plantation inside a protected zone.
Crying unabashedly, Mrs. Lopiba appealed for the consideration of WMC so that they can pay their bank loans and that they be allowed to harvest the maturing bananas.
Mrs. Lopiba said she thought it was alright if they just attached the plantation as additional line of business in their sari-sari store permit.
Lawyer Janis Louis H. Esparcia of the City Legal Office, who temporarily presided the WMC meeting, told the couple it is not an excuse to be ignorant about the law. ANTONIO M. AJERO