By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Panabo, Davao del Norte – Davao-based giant investment firm Anflo Management and Investment Corporation (ANFLOCOR), the owner of the company that operates the world’s largest contiguous banana plantation, won’t insist on extending its joint venture agreement (JVA) with Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) if this would mean more interrogations from the government moving forward.
ANFLOCOR Chairman Anthony Sasin said this as the company starts looking at other areas in Mindanao for potential expansion.
ANFLOCOR is the parent company of Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (TADECO), one of the highest yielding banana plantations in the world.
There is now an ongoing hearing in Congress questioning the legality of the 25-year JVA between TADECO and BuCor.
Under the deal, the agriculture company hires inmates from Davao Penal Colony as workers in the banana plantation they had set up within the colony’s premises covering 5,308 hectares.
In an interview here, Sasin admitted that losing the deal with BuCor will compromise TADECO’s status as one of the largest banana exporters in the world.
“Of course. The President (Rodrigo Duterte) is going around bragging we will sell bananas and here you are trying to cut the banana production. That does not jive,” Sasin said.
According to him, TADECO’s output inside the Davao Penal Colony accounts for “little over half” of the entire company’s production.
“(In terms of revenues and output) Davao Penal farm represents more than half. It is big. Out of our 26 million boxes a year, 15 million comes from Davao Penal,” Sasin said.
As of now, the company’s biggest export markets are Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China and some countries in the Middle East like Iran.
Nevertheless, Sasin said the company is also mulling over expansion to other areas in Mindanao like in Cateel in case its JVA with BuCor finally lapses.
“We have 12 more years under the deal. In 2029, it will be over,” Sasin said. “If we finish this contract, we will just leave this place. But we are legally well placed (in this situation). We didn’t violate anything. Actually, the DOJ (Department of Justice) should defend us.”
“(But) we are also expanding in other areas… we want to go to Cateel because there’s a potential area there of about 2,000 hectares. We have 1,000 people (that we can deploy there),” Sasin said.
But should the government cancel its contract before it expires, Sasin said TADECO may be forced to bring the case to the court.
“If they are cancelling us, they are forcing us to go to court. Where are we going to bring our workers?” Sasin said.
Records show that the JVA between TADECO and BUCOR already generated approximately 30,000 jobs. BuCor also deploy average of 886 inmates every day to the site for the past four years.
Sasin said the JVA has already withstood multiple reviews and several congressional investigations over the years but all of them have found their JVA to be valid and beneficial to the BuCor and the Republic of the Philippines.
In a separate interview with reporters here, Davao Prison and Penal Farm inmate Daisy Calamba, a former food caterer, asked the government, including the members of Congress, to visit them to see their condition as workers in TADECO.