Friday, October 22, 2021

Ledesma: Spare the banana industry (Last of 2 parts)

YESTERDAY, we recalled the events that led to the personal feud between erstwhile confreres Bebot Alvarez and Tonyboy Floirendo ti the point of irreconcilability: the breaking down by a team from the Department Works and Highways Davao Norte of quarantine implements of Tadeco in barangay Tanglaw, Dujali Municipality in Davao del Norte.

The crew, based on published accounts, was headed allegedly by a certain Edwin Jubahib, said to be a chief of staff of Alvarez.

Maybe Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was not aware of how the stupid officials of DPWH, the policemen and his nit-wit Chief of Staff destroyed those quarantine checkpoints. He should hold them accountable to himself. Those quarantine points are commonplace in banana plantations and in animal breeding places to prevent the entry and spread of deadly diseases. People and vehicles are not prevented from passing through these gates but they are required to comply with a simple process of stepping on foot-washes which are mixed with biocides that effectively eliminates pathological bacteria and virus.

The devious order to dismantle the quarantine barriers was ordered by Rep. Johnny Pimentel who wants to have an inventory of public roads surrounding the Tadeco Plantation. The congressman from Surigao del Sur cannot even attend to the decrepit roads in his province, and here he is intruding into the roads in Davao del Norte and specifically in Tadeco.

While I say that his motive is suspect, I put vital emphasis on the effects of this outrageous and deplorable act of placing Davao’s premier agriculture industry in unquantifiable damage. If these bastards think that only Tadeco banana plantation will be destroyed once the deadly Sigatoka disease and fusarium wilt spread they are terribly wrong. I knew for a fact that the entire banana industry had been struggling how to eradicate and control the spread of fusarium wilt. The soil-borne fungus cannot be controlled by fungicide and chemicals and stays in the soil for until when, scientists still are grappling for the answer. What the idiots in DPWH and the Philippine National Police did was to open the floodgates for these toxic diseases to traverse boundaries and infect other plantations.

The threat of this foolishness is beyond politics and irreconcilable friendship. You are watching here the possible demise of an industry that is the biggest employer in the country. Tadeco alone has no less than 6,000 labor force and that is not counting the indirect small capitalists that derive income from the industry. We are seeing here the decline and then loss of precious dollar currency generated from banana exports.

Who will suffer in the process? First the Davao region. The purchasing power of people and service sector cannot be belittled. Investment capitals are poured into the region because of the economic bonanza that is driven by its vibrant agricultural industry. Davao City for one has the distinction of sustaining a 9% economic growth possibly the highest in Asia. And we allow an ignoramus congressman from Surigao del Sur to diminish that because he claimed that there are two roads that have barriers in Floirendo-owned plantation? The bloke is even wrong. Tadeco is just a partner in the Joint Venture Agreement with the Bureau of Prisons in developing what was once a vast waste land to be the highest yielding banana plantation in the world.

In retrospect, I see the sense and purpose of setting up a regional party – Hugpong ng Pagbabago. And having said that, I hope that the HnP leadership will question and repulse this veiled and diabolic attempt of strange political quarters from Surigao that undermine the banana industry in the Philippines. If this will fail, it is time for Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte to intervene and he must do it pronto before it is too late. This is not the way to spur the growth of our regional industry. This is not the sinister manner to deprive employment for thousands of agri-based labor force. This is not the way to drive the hundreds of thousands to seek employment in Kuwait and elsewhere and suffer the indignities and death that could befell them.

Please spare Davao region from the vagaries of politics. Please spare the banana industry. It is the only one we have.
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