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Truth and lies

I have refrained from commenting on the raging controversy between Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo over Tagum Agricultural Development Co. and its use of the Bureau of Corrections’ land, 5,308.36 hectares of it, for decades now.

The quarrel between Alvarez and Floirendo supposedly arose from conflict between their girlfriends. But that’s beside the point.

The Speaker alleged that the joint venture agreement between Tadeco and the Bureau of Corrections is grossly disadvantageous to the government. The BuCor is paid P25.6 million per year whereas the prevailing lease rate in the area is P25,000 per hectare. Speaker Alvarez calculates that the government is prejudiced by more than P106 million.

However, last year, Tadeco actually paid the BuCor a total of P142.7 million, which equates to P26,900 per hectare. Tadeco paid not only the guaranteed annual production and profit share, but also the inmates of the Davao Penal Colony its farm training support, stipend and support program, and training subsidy. So what’s Alvarez bellyaching about?

Tadeco argues that aside from the rehabilitation of some 42,000 inmates, the JVA provided the banana plantation operations some 30,000 direct and indirect jobs. These translate to a secure livelihood of at least 181,000 Filipinos.

The JVA is also responsible for P438 million in taxes and fees paid to the government in 2016 alone.

Solicitor General Jose Calida added fuel to the fire when he issued a statement that the JVA violates the Public Land Act. He said that under this Act, agricultural public lands such as the davao Penal Colony may be disposed of only through homestead, sale, lease, or confirmation of imperfect title and not through a JVA.

Santa Banana, this is the crux of the problem. The Davao Penal Colony is neither an agricultural public land nor an alienable and disposable public land but a reservation.

The Speaker and Calida failed to tell the difference—and they are both lawyers, my gulay!

Such being the case of the Davao Penal Colony land, it cannot be a lease. The principal objective of the JVA is the rehabilitation of the inmates. The property where Tadeco has a banana plantation is a reservation, inalienable and indisposable, period.

Let’s go back to when Tadeco was under scrutiny by the Marcos administration. Then-Justice Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile said in a memorandum to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee dated June 29, 1970: “We are firmly of the belief that the contract established a joint venture between the parties.”

Such being the case, the Tadeco plantation cannot be a proper subject of a lease agreement under Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution.

The Speaker questioned the lease period of 25 years “instead of the prevailing practice of leasing with a term of just 10 years.” How can the Speaker be so ignorant of leases that go not only for 50 years but 75?

He also said that the freight-on-board price of bananas is $12 per box. Isn’t he aware of spot prices, like in China, which swing widely?

Tadeco, however takes a longer view and a more stable approach, careful not to subject itself to a feast-or-famine type of market. It said: “That would be a recipe for commercial disaster.”

What hurt Tadeco the most was that the Speaker claimed Tadeco workers were ill-treated and exploited. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Records show that Tadeco was the first banana plantation to obtain the Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification from abroad. Tadeco is audited yearly by foreign auditors. It is the first and only banana plantation to obtain PHILGAP certification from the Department of Agriculture.

Tadeco workers enjoy the highest salaries and benefits in the agricultural sector – medical coverage for the entire family, elementary and secondary schools, a hospital, recreation facilities.

I honestly don’t know where these arguments against Tadeco are coming from. Perhaps from ignorance.

***

President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs has spawned collateral problems like congested jails.

There have been so many arrests and surrenders. Imagine then how these prisoners are crammed into detention centers. It’s sub-human!

When former Vice President Jejomar Binay was mayor of Makati, he proposed the creation of an integrated jail facility for Metro Manila, which could accommodate more than 5,000 inmates.

Recently, Binay sent a letter to the acting Interior and Local Government Secretary Catalino Cuy proposing the same.

Binay added that as early as 2005, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology proposed this facility.

That is the problem of bureaucracy. When members of the Cabinet get proposals, they turn into that Mona Lisa song: “They just lie there and die there.”

The BJMP has actually proposed the creation of an integrated facility to house Metro Manila’s 21 jails, all its offices as well as housing for jail personnel. A 96-hectare property in San Mateo, Rizal was identified, with P300 million in initial allocation for its construction.

I wonder what happened to this plan. I also wonder what became of that proposed P50-billion jail facility in Nueva Ecija.

Topics: Emil Jurado , Truth and lies , Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez , Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo , Tagum Agricultural Development Co. , Bureau of Corrections
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