By ALLAN JUANITO
NPA-North Central Mindanao Regional Command
The New People’s Army under the Mt. Kitanglad Sub-Regional Command of North Central Mindanao Region launched coordinated and simultaneous attacks on Del Monte and Dole-Stanfilco companies around 6:00 pm yesterday, 19 February 2013.
The NPA units attacked the motor pool and administration building, and destroyed the equipment in Del Monte Philippines’ main camp in Camp Phillips, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; attacked a Del Monte sattelite camp in Villavista, Sumilao, Bukidnon; and confiscated firearms from the armed security guards in Dole-Stanfilco’s La Fortuna Plantation in La Fortuna, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.
In a partial report gathered from the field operations command, the NPA has so far destroyed nine heavy equipments, two warehouses, and an office in the satellite camp in Villavista. The NPA seized 19 assorted firearms as well as computers from this operation. Some of these were seized from the unit under Supt Jumalon of the Philippine National Police – Manolo Fortich, unaware that the NPA were ready to intercept them on the way to the main camp.
An armed security guard was killed while two others were wounded, all belonging to Kadre Security Agency owned by Pastor Alcover, a minion of retired Gen. Jovito Palparan.
This simultaneous and coordinated military operation is a forthright statement that the revolutionary movement is determined in meting out punitive actions against the giant agribusiness companies for exploiting and oppressing the workers, peasants and Lumads, and seriously ravaging the environment. After a series of killer typhoons wrought havoc to the hapless victims, the culpability of the environmentally-destructive operations of logging, agribusiness and mining companies is repeatedly exposed. Now is the time to serve justice to the victims of these man-made calamities.
The sudden surge of flood water in Cagayan River caused by Tropical Storm Sendong, which swept thousands of lives and billions worth of property, clearly shows the extent of current environmental destruction in the region. The once lush watershed forests of Kitanglad and Kalatungan Ranges, where the headwaters of the tributaries of Cagayan River originate, are gradually being denuded until now. In its foothills are waves upon waves of pineapple and banana plantations owned by the imperialist Dole and Del Monte companies. During heavy downpours, tons of soil contaminated with toxic chemicals is washed out to Cagayan River.
The environmental damage caused by pineapple plantations is comparable to that of mining, since the natural terrain is levelled using heavy machineries in preparation for planting. According to an environmentalist, for every hectare of pineapple, 100 tons of soil is eroded yearly.
Since the last decade, these agribusiness companies have been competing for amassing agricultural lands which are the main source of livelihood for the great majority of the population. Del Monte, Dole and SUMIFRU, which dominate this sector, in collusion with landlords, are the most agressive in grabbing the lands being tilled by peasants for food crops and replacing them with fruits for export.
Del Monte has been operating in the region for almost a hundred years now. Up to 90’s, Del Monte occupied 45,617 hectares of pineapples plantations. This does not include other areas which were not declared or which are nominally owned by other landlords and contract growers. From pineapple plantations, it expanded its operations to other fruits for export such as bananas and papayas. It continues to buy or rent land not only in Bukidnon, but has expanded now to the municipalities of the eastern part of Misamis Oriental accumulating a total of 57,172 hectares.
These wide stretches of land which are turned into plantations were once tilled by peasants and Lumads who were evicted from their homes and livelihood. They stand powerless against the company’s armed security, much more in legal battles in the reactionary court. The peasants and Lumads who were stripped of their lands are now tilling the slopes on the fringes of the plantations. There are even documented cases of gastro-intestinal epidemics involving displaced families feeding on food crops planted on the plantation periphery contaminated with highly-toxic chemicals Del Monte uses.
In 2010, it ranked 82nd of the top 1000 corporations in the Philippines with P16.67 billion revenue. While the Campos family which owns this company rakes billions of pesos in profits, the workers here remain poor because of low wages and lack of benefits; constantly fear getting laid off for expressing grievances; and endure the suppression of their rights by the armed security.
Dole on the other hand started investing here in the last decade. It now operates 16,698.7 hectares of plantations: 2,034 of which are planted with pineapple while 14,664 are utilized for banana. In 2010, it ranked 39th of the top 1000 corporation with P26.97 billion in revenue. Its workers suffer from exploitation and oppression. They receive poor wages—most of them are seasonally hired contractual workers—and, like the Del Monte workers, suffer from health-hazardous working conditions and the unjust treatment of the management. They worry all the more today for fear of getting laid off summarily because of Itucho Corporation’s impending takeover after the sell-of of Dole last year.
Once more, we reiterate our call to these companies to end all their environmentally-destructive operations, landgrabbing and their exploitative and oppressive activities. They must immediately stop the expansion of their plantations. As to their contractors, we warn them again to seriously consider the security of their business before closing deals with multinational agribusiness companies such as Del Monte and Dole.