Tag Archives: agrarian reform


The Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI) and its Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) have reached yet another milestone in their decades-long partnership following the signing of a new agribusiness venture agreement (AVA) that would provide workers in the MEPI banana farm a significantly improved package of land rental, salaries and benefits that remain the highest in the industry. 

Both the MEPI management and members of the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (DAMARB) described the amended  AVA as a “win-win” solution that would guarantee the ARBs an unmatched array of benefits, which include a signing bonus and retroactive and advance rental payments for each ARB-signatory amounting to P105,000 as well as a regular monthly income for each of them. 



MEPI president Antero Sison, Jr., who reported this positive development in a letter dated June 21 to President Rodrigo Duterte, said majority of the ARBs working in the Marsman plantation have already signed the amended agreement. 
“As of this writing, 489 out of the 793 ARBs have already signed the amended agreement. At least 18 more ARBs who are residing outside Davao del Norte and/or are sick or incapacitated have committed to sign through their representatives. As your Excellency has voiced in a number of occasions, the Republic continues to be run under democratic principles and hence, the wishes of the majority must prevail,” Sison said in his letter to the President. 
Hernando Rivero, the chairman of the board of DAMARB, said the organization’s members find the amended agreement “to be reasonable and economically beneficial for themselves, the community, the banana industry and the government.” 
The amended lease AVA, Rivero said, will ensure that more than 1,800 employees of MEPI would get to keep their jobs, which will, in turn, benefit nearly 8,000 dependents. 


The new AVA signed between MEPI and DAMARB last June 1 also includes payment for land rental of P50,000 per hectare per year plus an escalation of P10,000 every five years, which is more than double the industry average. 
“For all ARBs, this will total P40 million per annum for the first five years alone, and getting higher as the escalation takes effect,” Sison said in his letter. 
As part of MEPI’s continued commitment to social responsibility, the new pact also grants medical/death benefits for retired ARBs, which are beyond the provisions of the existing collective bargaining agreement. 
Sison said the guaranteed monthly income for each ARB that would take effect starting January next year will come from an “innovative monthly rental payment scheme” that was agreed upon by the MEPI and the beneficiaries. 


The MEPI president said that even ARBs belonging to the minority groups, such as the Santo Tomas Individual Farmers Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (SIFARBCO) and Sto. Tomas Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (STARBENCO) may also avail themselves of this unprecedented increase in benefits by merely proposing to MEPI the same amendments to their lease AVA. 
He informed the President that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), which had recommended the cancellation of the lease AVA, “has also been notified of the win-win solution through a letter sent by DAMARB on 03 June 2017.” 
MEPI also followed this up with a separate notification to DAR on June 5. 
“Whilst MEPI has strong legal grounds to question the cancellation of the lease AVA, this will be a very long process which will delay the grant of benefits to landowners. With this win-win solution, the ARBs immediately enjoy the economic benefits of land ownership. This may be considered a landmark approach for addressing other AVA controversies,” Sison said in his letter to the President. 
Sison said that with the President’s support, the MEPI and the ARBs “look forward to finally putting this controversy to rest with the interest of all concerned parties accordingly addressed, most especially the economic welfare of the ARBs.” 
On top of getting pay and benefits that are way above industry standards, ARBs and their families in the MEPI banana farm also enjoy educational and health care coverage; generous vacati on and sick leaves with pay; housing, meal and medical allowances; performance, production, Christmas, Labor Day and longevity bonuses; life and accident insurance; and retirement benefits. 




The Philippines has lost its standing as the world’s second largest banana producer and exporter due to unreliable government policies, the communist insurgency and unstable weather patterns.

Banana industry players fear these negative factors could further weaken the industry, one of the country’s top export earners.

PAENG MARIANO under fire

While the communist New People’s Army and the extreme weather patterns El Niño and the La Niña deal deadly blows, the industry specifically  blames the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and its “unreliable policies that disregard established practices and contracts” as a key contributor in the decline of the export Cavendish banana industry. Rafael Mariano is the DAR Secretary.

The country’s export earnings from banana plunged to $440 million in 2015, down by about 60 percent from $1.1 billion in 2014.

“We used to be the world’s second largest banana producer and exporter next to Ecuador.  But today the Philippines has been edged out by Costa Rica,” said Antero Sison, Jr., president of Marsman Estate Plantation Inc. (MEPI).

The Philippine banana industry faces the triple woes as it also misses export opportunities from new markets.

“Ironically, this (is supposed to be) the best time for us to recover because of the increasing demand from large markets like China, but unpredictable state policies are pulling the industry down,” said Sison.

The unpredictable government policies is the worst enemy facing MEPI now, according to Sison.

 “We can learn to cope with extreme weather phenomena like the El Niño and the La Niña by applying and developing climate-resilient technologies,” Sison said.

“But (there is) no technological application (that) can be developed against the inconsistency of the DAR  policies,” Sison said in jest.

MEPI is fighting off DAR’s order to revoke the banana company’s long existing Agribusiness Venture Agreement (AVA) with Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs).

AVAs between cooperatives formed by ARBs and banana plantation developers are among the most successful partnerships in the agriculture sector. The AVAs have enabled ARBs to earn more than farmers planting rice or other crops.

Hernando Rivero, a member of the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (DAMARBDEVCO) said “DAR officials, whether deliberate or not, have been contributing to the decline of the banana industry, which has helped tens of thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries significantly improve their living standards and that of their families.”

The DAMARBDEVCO has an AVA with MEPI, which donated the land cultivated by members of the cooperative.

Another banana company, Lapanday Fruits Corporation (LFC), is in the same boat as MEPI, battling DAR over the company’s  AVA with ARBs.

Hernani P. Geronimo, spokesperson of LFC said that “the DAR’s move to break legitimate AVAs that have enabled many ARBs to earn better than decent wages and that have provided well for their families, violates the non-impairment clause contained in Section 10, Article III of the Constitution.”

Sison said the DAR appears to be unconcerned over the plight of banana ARBs when its head, Secretary Rafael Mariano, ordered a blanket review of all AVAs or leaseback agreements despite these deals already upheld as legal, fair and aboveboard by government authorities and the courts.

The DAR has been after the cancellation of the AVA of MEPI and LFC.

“It saddens us to think that the DAR doesn’t care whether our ARBs and other workers in our plantation lose their jobs. Their officials are indifferent to their plight and couldn’t care less if our farmers and their families go hungry,” Sison said.

LFC and its workers, and the ARBs, are lamenting the “attempts by officials of the DAR to scuttle legitimate and valid agribusiness venture deals between banana plantation developers and ARBs, in blatant disregard of President Duterte’s policy of honoring all contractual obligations of the government,” said LFC spokesperson Hernani P. Geronimo.

He said that “the DAR’s move to break legitimate AVAs that have enabled many ARBs to earn better than decent wages and that have provided well for their families, doesn’t just violate the non impairment clause contained in Section 10, Article III of the Constitution. It also apparently has emboldened the communist insurgents to continue with their extortion activities and attacks against banana plantations.”

On April 29, NPA rebels attacked LFC’s two packaging plants and farm in Mandug, at the outskirts of Davao City. The rebels burned plant equipment and exploded an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that killed a fish vendor.

Duterte reiterates stand against aliens owning lands

Super-rich nations like China will buy and gobble up lands and make Filipinos squatters in their homeland if foreigners would be allowed to own lands in the Philippines.

For this, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he would oppose any move by Congress to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution to include right of foreigners to own lands.

  Nevertheless, in the Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa television program on ABS/CBN, Duterte said he welcomed Charter Change as an avenue for pushing the concept of federalism.

If there will be Charter Change we will push our proposal to shift to a federal form of government, said Duterte, who on December 1 convened in Davao City a summit of about 600 advocates of federalism.

Duterte’s phobia against amending the economic provisions of the Constitution to allow aliens to own lands, dates back to the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when then House Speaker Prospero Nograles authored a resolution allowing foreigners to own land.

Duterte widely used the “anti-poor” Nograles resolution in the 2010 Davao City election where the then House Speaker lost by more than 280,000 votes in the mayoral race against Sara Duterte, the mayor’s daughter.

The resolution was one of measures hurriedly introduced and on verge of approval before the Nograles House bowed out of office in 2010.

The Nograles resolution was not approved following strong opposition from farmers groups which held nationwide mass actions against the measure.


Slow DAR action on land conversion hampering Davao investment climate

    Davao City officials said that slow action on application for conversion of agricultural lands by investors is affecting the business investment climate in the city.
    The applications for conversion of more than five hectares, to be acted on by the DAR Manila office, take years to be approved.
    The snail-paced action has put on hold many business projects in the city involving mostly real estate development and resorts in the outskirts of the city on lands classified as agricultural by DAR. The Davao City government requires the conversion permits before approving the projects and issue local permits.
    City planning officer Roberto Alabado said there are several investments having problem in conversion but the local government cannot impose on national agencies like DAR to speed up the conversions.
    But he said City Hall compromise by issuing “conditional permits” while the applications for conversion are pending with DAR.
    A case in point is the 30-hectare D’Leonor Inland Resort in Cabantian that has complied with local requirements but lacks a conversion permit from DAR.
    We have given them a conditional permit, said Alabado.
    Tourism and investment officer Jayson Magnaye said his office encountered similar probelms of investors finding it hard to secure conversion permit from  DAR.
    Magnaye could not give a figure on the number of the affected projects but agreed the slow process could stymy investors on pushing through with their projects.
    Alabado and Magnaye told the Durian Post that there may be a need to conduct a headcount of the projects affected by the slow conversion as it would deal a negative blow on the city as an investment haven.

SUPREME COURT RULING upholds victory of Hacienda Luisita farmers

But farmers’ struggle not yet over 

BAGUIO CITY – Voting 14-0, the Supreme Court (SC) affirmed its decision for the total distribution of the Hacienda Luisita, the estate owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III, to the farmers.

Also, the farmers erupted in cheers after the SC sustained its earlier position that the owners of the sprawling sugarcane estate will be compensated based on the 1989 market price.

Voting 8-6, the justices said the Cojuangcos are entitled to compensation of P40,000 per hectare based on the valuation made last November 21, 1989, the date when the stock distribution option was approved by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

SC spokesman Midas Marquez, in a press conference, said the eight SC justices who voted in favor of the 1989 valuation are Chief Justice Renato Corona, Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Roberto Abad, Presbitero Velasco, and Martin Villarama Jr.

“The Court will no longer entertain further pleadings. The resolution is already final and executory,” Marquez told Sun.Star.


The decision sets aside the appeal by the Hacienda Luisita Inc., which sought for P10 billion-compensation it based on the notice of coverage by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on January 2, 2006, pursuant to the resolution of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) recalling the approval of the SDO.

The SDO was declared illegal by the justices last year, paving the way for the total distribution of the 4,915-hectare estate to the 6,296 farm worker beneficiaries.

Opposed to the majority ruling, meanwhile, are Justices Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo and Aquino appointees Estela Bernabe, Bienvenido Reyes, and Maria Lourdes Sereno.

They said the determination of just compensation should be left to the special agrarian court of the DAR.

Sereno earlier said that the valuation of land should be based on the 2006 fair market value of P2.25 million per hectare, a hefty amount which farmers could not afford to shell out.

Outside the SC building, farmers patiently waited for the announcement as they hailed the justices for working for the benefit of the poor.

A thanksgiving mass was also officiated by Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon following the announcement by Marquez, where he advised the farmers to take care and cultivate the land.

“The management of Hacienda Luisita along with other landlord estates must now read the writing on the wall. We call on them to immediately and without any hesitation distribute the land to the HLI farmers,” party-list group Akbayan said.

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) echoed the same appeal, saying both the HLI management and the Aquino government should take immediate and concrete steps for land distribution.

“The farmers’ struggle is not over yet and they deserve our support in all their efforts to make the land truly beneficial for the people. They deserve our support against other possible maneuvers of the HLI management and the Aquino regime,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Instead of giving its take on the decision, Malacañang tossed the ball to the DAR and the Office of the Solicitor General to come up with a statement.

To recall, Aquino’s maternal relatives (Cojuangcos) were reportedly disappointed with the November decision and that the President was even berated by his elders, days after the main decision came out last November 22, 2011.

A media report said Aquino’s constant tirades against the High Court, especially on its Chief Justice, had cost them the hacienda.

Aquino, allegedly succumbing to family pressure, decided to fight back by aiming for Corona’s ouster.

The Chief Justice himself said in various instances that the impeachment case against him stemmed from his position nullifying the SDO and to distribute the lands to farmers,


A Karlo fan

    As a big fan of Davao City First District Congressman Karlo Nograles, I am frustrated that the son of former House Speaker


Prospero Nograles, also my idol, once, has taken the route of political suicide taken by his father.
This after reading a news report about the young Nograles urging the national government to allow foreigners to engage in agricultural production in the country.
Interpreted simply, this means that Karlo wants foreigners to own land in the country at the expense of the poor farmers.
Before he bowed out of office, Speaker Nograles came short of being crucified by farmers’ groups and the militant sector for his authorship of an idea now being pursued by the son, dubbed as a big sell-out of the country’s patrimony by critics.
The  then Speaker had authored House Resolution No. 737 – which would allow foreign groups to own land in the Philippines.
The bill could lead to heightened agrarian unrest in the countryside as it could lead to the intensification of foreign and corporate land-grabbing, according to critics of the Nograles resolution.
Karlo has a lot to learn about politics and how to get himself endeared to people who matter if he wants to stay in politics. Unless, of course, he is motivated by other ulterior financially-rewarding agenda started by his father that he has to pursue as a member of Congress.
In the local election in May last year, Speaker Nograles lost potent votes in the mayoral race from  farmers and progressive militant groups here because of his resolution.
Karlo, apparently is doing the same right now, by pushing the same idea described as totally anti-farmer and anti-people.
Specifically, he wants the Philippines to enter into agreement with Arab countries on agricultural production in Mindanao, which should of course start with land purchase by the Arab companies.
According to Nograles the partnership could develop some 26,000 hectares of government property in Central Mindanao into a major agri-industrial production and processing complex, with the Arab companies exporting the produce to their countries.
This is precisely the idea of the former Speaker. Foreigners coming in to own lands that could displace farmers. Foreigners making use of our own patrimony for their own benefit at the expense of the farmers.
Former Speaker Nograles was tagged for his resolution on foreigners owning lands in the country as a “traitor” and miserably lost in the Davao City mayoral contest.
That is what is going to happen also to Karlo Nograles if he apes his father.
We suggest he drops his idea at soonest.
We are giving him this piece of advice because we heard he is running for mayor in Davao City in 2013.
In politics, lightning could strike the same spot twice, thrice or even more.
Karlo should avoid this situation by not following on the footstep of his father by toying with the idea of selling lands to foreigners. JOVITA SALVADOR, Bucana, Davao City