Support for the joint venture agreement between the Bureau of Corrections and the Tagum Agricultural Development Co. Inc. has snowballed as more local government units and local executives called on the Department of Justice and the Duterte administration to affirm the deal, citing its crucial role to the economic development of Davao del Norte province.
The municipality and city councils as well as the leagues of barangay of Carmen, Braulio Dujali, Panabo, Samal, and Sto. Tomas have issued separate resolutions affirming their support to the BuCor-Tadeco deal to manage the 5,308.36-hectare banana plantation inside the Davao Penal Colony reservation. The resolutions were submitted to the DoJ and its attached agency, the BuCor.
“The presence of banana companies like Tadeco boosts the economic activity not only in the Municipality of Carmen but throughout the Davao Region. It is one of the resources considered that made Carmen a first class municipality in the province,” read the resolution of Carmen’s Sangguniang Bayan.
At least 50 percent of Carmen’s labor force is working in agro-industrial establishments. Of this, 70 percent are hired by Tadeco alone. The Sangguniang Bayan of Braulio Dujali noted how Tadeco has become instrumental to the development of the towns close to the plantation.
“It helped develop, construct, and maintain road networks and drainages and protection dikes by providing heavy equipment and correspondent operator, which helped mitigate the flood problem of the locality.”
“Some parts of this town were also once barren while other lands were uninhabited. With Tadeco developing and eventually turning them into productive spots where exportable bananas are grown, people started to flock [to Braulio Dujali municipality]... and at present [Tadeco] employed thousands of individuals from this town,” read the resolution.
The municipality council cited the social recovery efforts conducted by Tadeco through the Antonio O. Floirendo Foundation, including medical outreach programs for poor communities and electrification program that benefitted even households in the town’s outskirts.
Davao del Norte Liga ng Mga Barangay said the company has also provided full scholarship to qualified dependent scholars as part of its corporate social responsibility thrust.
The city council of Panabo, for its part, pointed out Tadeco’s efforts at rehabilitating the inmates of the Davao Prison and Penal Farm by giving them agricultural and industrial training plus gainful employment.
“The inmates had job opportunities through the JVA which helped them realize their goals and made their lives more useful to their families and to the community while being imprisoned.”
The municipality of Sto. Tomas, in its resolution, noted how effective Tadeco has been at helping inmates that some of them would prefer to stay inside the penal farm where they have decent jobs.
“It is often heard from the inmates receiving wages from Tadeco that they prefer to stay in jail to continue the job opportunities rather than stay outside, free but with no work.”
The provincial board of Davao del Norte early threw its support to the BuCor-Tadeco deal, citing its invaluable role in rehabilitating the inmates of the local penal colony as well as in providing jobs and improving the lives of some 181,000 residents.
In Resolution No. 364 which was approved by Davao del Norte Governor Antonio del Rosario, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan said Tadeco’s rehabilitation program has become a model for other penal colonies.
“The JVA rehabilitation program has brought pride to the province of Davao del Norte because its success is well known in the entire Philippine penal system. As a matter of fact, BuCor wanted it replicated in its Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan,” read the three-page resolution.
Even politicians from neighboring areas, including Asuncion municipality, which is a constituent of one of the most vocal critics of the JVA, Davao del Norte First District Rep. and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, have endorsed the Bucor-Tadeco deal.
“A lot of Asuncion residents are employed in Tadeco. So Tadeco for so many years helped not only the economy of District II, but also the First District in terms of employment, both direct and indirect. And the overwhelming support of the officials of Asuncion to the Tadeco-BuCor deal is based on the belief that the JVA has been reviewed by at least six past Justice secretaries of several past presidencies,” said Asuncion Mayor Eufracio Dayaday.
Asuncion Vice Mayor Joel Camello, for his part, said: “While other banana plantations were shut down due to complex problems, thereby dislocating employees and resulting in loss of taxes and other economic opportunities, here we have Tadeco that keeps international quality standard and has complied with wage standards while giving additional benefits to its employees.”
Alvarez has sought a legislative probe into the JVA, which he claimed was grossly disadvantageous to the government. He questioned, among others, the firm’s annual payments for both lease and profit sharing as only a fraction of the prevailing market rate.
There are still 12 years remaining under the JVA, which provides that the government should receive a guaranteed payment of P26.542 million per year for the lease of the land or P5,000 per hectare.
Tadeco president and chief executive officer Alex Valoria earlier told lawmakers that the government, without spending a single centavo, earned a total of P142.72 million in 2016 alone, representing a 45 percent share under the joint venture agreement. Tadeco is owned by the family of Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr.