Mediate on land, farmers, Lorenzo firm told
DAVAO CITY—A group of banana producers in Mindanao is proposing mediation by a third party of the land dispute between a group of farmers and one of the biggest food companies in the island that has escalated into violence recently.
The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) is seeking a peaceful solution to the dispute between agrarian reform beneficiaries and Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) over a parcel of land in Tagum City.
LFC is owned by the family of former agriculture secretary Cito Lorenzo.
At least 10 farmers had been wounded in a series of shootings last week in Barangay Madaum in Tagum, which allegedly involved guards of LFC.
The farmers, who are members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (Marbai), had staked claim on a 145-hectare parcel of land which Lorenzo’s LFC is also claiming.
Stephen Antig, PBGEA executive director, told reporters here on Friday that the third party should be acceptable to both farmers and LFC.
He identified trained mediators from the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry as possible mediators.
“Let’s try to settle the problem because it is Christmas season,” Antig said.
Antig, however, said the farmers should first respect a 1999 contract with LFC that was entered into by their former colleagues at the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperation 1.
The contract gave LFC authority to use the 145-hectare land but Marbai members said the company is now claiming ownership.
Antig said he believed the conflict is rooted in the lack of unity among farmers in Madaum.
Factions have emerged that divided the group of farmers and are “the root problem,” said Antig.
He said the farmers have to iron out their differences first to resolve the conflict with LFC, which has turned violent.
Tagum Mayor Allan Rellon said one way to defuse the situation is to disarm guards of LFC, who were involved in the shootings.
Antonio Tuyak, Marbai spokesperson, said the guards have been preventing Marbai members from entering the disputed area.
Rellon also warned that he would hold the police accountable for the violence.
The mayor promised the farmers he would relieve any police officer who would refuse to respond to their plea for intervention. He said he would also seek the filing of charges against LFC guards involved in the shootings. —JUDY QUIROS AND FRINSTON LIM
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