GOIN’ BANANAS OVER BUCOR-TADECO CONTRACT
It is a fact, and let’s not forget, that :
Bananas are rich in antioxidants and several nutrients. A medium-sized banana contains about 105 calories.
Bananas are fairly rich in fiber too and resistant starch, which may feed the friendly gut bacteria and help protect against colon cancer.
Bananas are a good dietary source of potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that are essential for heart health.
Eating a banana several times a week may reduce the risk of kidney disease by up to 50%.
Bananas may help relieve muscle cramps caused by exercise. They also provide excellent fuel for endurance exercise.
Bananas are incredibly easy to eat and transport. They are the cheapest snack in the universe which contains everything the body needs to stay healthy. They are usually well-tolerated and easily digested, and simply have to be peeled and eaten.
It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Now, let’s move on to the tackier side.
Panabo city is the Banana capital of the Philippines. But of course, it is still a part of Davao Province, hence it is to the glory of the province to be recognized as such. How it became the banana center of the country goes back to the early 60s when the area was still backwater, pure jungle and virtually a rain forest where the likes of Tarzan can survive bar none. A local migrant from Luzon explored on the possibility of planting bananas and from there, he never looked back. The local weather is ideal for cultivar farming and it bloomed. Until recently, not only agricultural challenges are noted in terms of plant disease, there is also a technical malady brought about by political questions.
Planted on the vast farm is banana specie known in science as Cavendish. Its origin is from Latin America. It is one of the most sensitive fruit and could not tolerate any soil defect. It withers as soon as it gets contact with fungi. That explains why banana plantation in Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Taiwan collapsed as a result of the so called Panama disease. Panama disease is a plant infection of the roots of banana plants. It is a type of Fusarium wilt, caused by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum. The pathogen is resistant to fungicide and cannot be controlled chemically.
In the Philippines, the plant disease has become endemic that a large swath of land in Davao has been contaminated already. Worst, once the soil has been determined infected with such industry killer as Panama disease, the land is useless for life and can no longer be planted with bananas anymore. New strains of Panama disease currently threaten the production of today’s most popular cultivar, Cavendish. However, other crops like cacao, coffee, fruit trees can still be planted except for succulent varieties.
In the province of Davao del Norte, there are noticeable sites where Panama disease has been noted. Indeed, the industry pestilence is just around the corner. Like in other South East Asian countries, the banana industry is almost on its terminal phase. If that happens to the country, it would lose the third largest dollar revenue to the government. Only those areas which are technically managed by the Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (TADECO) through the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) remained clear from the incursion of the plant disease. While there were small areas in the vicinity, where the boundaries are, which has been infected, there was immediate quarantine procedures and security built up around the area.
Outside of the JVA, the farms have dried up as a consequence of the fungal disease. For life, it could no longer be negotiated to be utilized as a banana farm.
Earlier on before Tadeco introduced banana, the vast hectares maintained by Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) was splattering with abaca plants until it became a serial window for Presidential magnanimity for farm groups. Almost all Presidents issued Proclamations handing over a portion of Dapecol’s reservation to farmers until ¼ of the original size remained. What remained were land immersed in muddy waters, an estuary and swampy estate where inmates waded through in waist deep mud when moving from one transit camp to another. No farming group would get interested in such challenging and almost useless area.
Tadeco farm was adjacent the area and it offered a proposition to Dapecol authorities to jointly explore the development of the swampy area into an agricultural producing farm. Dapecol referred the matter to the Bureau of Corrections (then Bureau of Prisons) authorities and in turn, was submitted to the Department of Justice for review and eventual formulation of a contract for department approval.
As the saying goes, the rest is history.
And then, success becomes a magnet for intrigues. There were charges and complaints by those who wanted to get into the picture of a successful program. And of course there are those who doubt and those who believe that in the Philippines, fairness is nowhere and that crime pays. And so, anything that is good is suspect and anything better is all the more to be indicted.
The Joint Venture Agreement between the BuCor and TADECO which was approved by the Department of Justice was a stunning success. It gave the world its biggest banana plantation. It gave the country the third biggest dollar earner next to OFW and coconut. It sustained a pillar of criminal justice administration not only in Davao Penal colony but on all penal establishments all over the country. The program not only provided life skills lessons to inmates but assured an entire province its economic lifeblood through employment and shared taxes.
There were doubters claiming that Tadeco prejudiced government when it received a consideration to use Dapecol land at the annual rate below the amount of Php 25k per hectare ,the going rate in the area. While the proposed amount had been spelled out in the provision, DOJ made not only a cursory study but a survey on lands adjacent the area. Aside from the fact that price of lease contract is prohibitive because it is acreage previously proclaimed and could no longer be conveyed for commercial purposes. Other estates available have been totally developed while others have reached overdevelopment and therefore the soil unsuitable for agricultural purposes.
Furthermore, the theme is a joint venture and not a leasehold relationship. Both Bucor and Tadeco are working on the farm. Bucor has not relinquished its role like a landlord. The Joint Venture Agreement is different from Leasehold. It is like comparing apples with oysters.
I was an accidental observer of two parties when they forged the renewal of their contract way back in 2004. I was then the outgoing Superintendent of Davao Penal Colony. TADECO offered an increase in the Guaranteed Production Share with 10% increment every five years, this on top of profit sharing per box basis. The GPS is a mandatory commitment to government even if a conflagration happens to the entire farm maintained through JVA. Tadeco must have to remit the amount as stipulated.
Although the contractual relationship is not based principally on commerce, the corporate party bound itself to be obligated to share its resources as part of its social responsibility. It accommodates workers from the ranks of released prisoners, promotes agricultural exchanges with penal administration and extends security consideration as far as guarding penal boundaries are concerned. Without this vigilant aspect in the institutional affiliation, the penal reservation would have been taken over by informal settlers and like its counterpart penal establishments in Palawan, Mindoro, Zamboanga and Leyte, a large portion of their respective penal reservation were invaded by squatters, squandered and like previous land proclamations, became barren, unproductive and rendered without revenue.
Tadeco’s HR practitioners are among the most competent in the country and this is shown with the efficient way the labor force fulfills its mandated tasks or work quota. Staff development courses and related professional upgrading and awareness on safety are regular features in their daily exposures. Their efficiency is contagious and has affected the way a government prison facility conducts its daily performance. For a number of years, their corporate approach to personnel welfare has been considered one of the best practices in the corporate setting.
The JVA contract may not be seen to be made in Heaven but definitely, it is one which can be construed as beneficial given the realities of our times.
I have retired from government service since and have been a witness to an active public-private partnership done though the JVA. The JVA experience could have been replicated in most penal establishment in the country.
Had it been done, Corrections would not have suffered a debacle of unconscionable proportion.