EMPTY. No bananas hang on the cableway, while chopped banana crops lie on the ground after farmers protesting against Lapanday Food Corporation chopped them down inside the San Isidro farm area in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City on Friday, Dec. 16. Farmers appeal to the owners of the company to give back the land they owned. (Robby Joy Salveron/davaotoday.com)

TAGUM CITY, Philippines —- The Lapanday Foods Corporation and the agrarian reform beneficiaries who are occupying some 145-hectares of lands in Barangay Madaum here will be meeting in a dialogue on Monday, Dec. 19.

The dialogue will be held inside the San Isidro (Sanid) farm area which banana growers under the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. said they are reclaiming, after they were ousted from the plantation more than six years ago.

The dialogue was set after the city’s crisis and management committee was convened by Mayor Allan Rellon last Wednesday to intervene over the dispute between Lapanday who manages the Sanid area and the 159 farmer beneficiaries under Marbai.

Rellon has ordered a status quo on the area following the shooting incident against the protesting farmers and their supporters. The mayor prohibited Lapanday guards from attacking the farmers. The Tagum City Police were also directed to exercise its authority to guard the contested area.

On Thursday, Dec. 15 the Department of Agrarian Reform issued a cease and desist order prohibiting Lapanday and its security guards from forcibly evicting the farmers.

Both parties have expressed their desire to negotiate.

Lapanday’s legal counsel Atty. Leilani Espejo during the meeting with the crisis committee in Barangay San Isidro on Wednesday said they are open to negotiate for a solution that is “mutually acceptable to all.”

“We recognize their plight. But for us, we think it is not right that they took the law into their own hands. We have a process to follow,” she said.

Read: Lapanday: 15 hectares of bananas chopped by farmers cost $120K

Meanwhile, Artemio Serot, chairman of the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries 1 alliance and a member of Marbai said they have long been following the legal process to break free from Lapanday who have made them sign a onerous contract.

“We have followed the legal process and it took us six years already that we do not enjoy our land,” Serot told Davao today in an interview on Friday, Dec. 16.

The Sanid area occupied by the farmers is managed by Lapanday under a compromised agreement entered into between the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperation 1 (Hearbco1), a cooperative where Marbai banana growers separated from in January 2011. The compromised agreement was signed between Hearbco-1 and LFC on September 9, 2011.

In an open letter to the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Marbai Board of Trustees Chairperson Mely Yu said: “LFC refused to address the fact that it was by means of a referendum-one democratic procedure that all of ARBs under HEARBCO 1 agreed upon and voted for whether we chose to remain in continuance of an unfair contract with our buyer or not.”

“We did not expect we would reap such atrocities. We do not want such acts of violence. On the contrary, we acted and resorted to peaceful means till the very end even though our confidence in the judicial process to heed our demands remained futile,” Yu said.

“We have no other motive than to assert our inalienable right to life,” she added.

Local DAR officials have previously suggested during the meeting with the crisis committee that they would be allowed entry in the area to partition the land and decide which area will be tilled by the members of Marbai. (davaotoday.com)


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