Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. of the first district of Davao del Norte branded the recent legislative inquiry in the House of Representatives on the joint venture agreement between the Davao Prison and Penal Farm and the Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. as a ‘witch-hunt.’
“The legislative inquiry, the fifth time it was done to scrutinize the shared accord, failed to come up with even a single testimony to impugn the deal which, in the first place, was started when the government offered its penal farms for development. It’s lamentable that in the failure to pin down alleged anomalies in the joint venture agreement, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has injected unrelated and false issues in the hearing,” Floirendo said in a statement.
Floirendo said in the Feb. 7 inquiry conducted by the committees on justice and good government and accountability, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez invited resource persons who were not privy and did not have inside knowledge of the deal.
Floirendo, whose family controls Tadeco, said 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, Mr. Alvarez resorted to manufactured charges, accusing my family of poll manipulation, preventing people from entering Dapeco—a public land and pursuing claims that the Dapecol lands were not properly surveyed,” he 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,” Floirendo said.
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 nations require that banana products purchased from Davao should follow strict quarantine rules and other regulatory standards.
“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?” Floirendo said.
Floirendo warned that the continuing imputations focused on Tadeco and, by extension, the banana plantations of Davao region, would have long-term repercussions in the way foreign buyers would assess the stability of the industry.
The Philippine Statistics Authority said the country’s banana production in 2017 rose three percent to 9.166 million metric tons from 8.903 MMT in 2016, which greatly improved the country’s export numbers amid unwarranted attacks.
“Going by what the House has been doing so far, 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,” Floirendo said.
“The issues raised as to the legality of the agreement are better cleared, served, and resolved if these are brought to the attention of proper authorities and institutions that are apolitical, fair, and open-minded,” he said.