Peace talks with Reds to protect banana industry – exporters
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Talking peace with the communist rebels is the only option. And the country's banana industry strongly urges the government to return to the negotiating table with the rebels to save their sector.
“To me, I cannot see any solution apart from peace talks,” Ferdinand Marañon, Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) president in Davao Region, told reporters on Monday, September 4.
Banana plantations in Mindanao have been a constant target of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), subjecting these companies to revolutionary taxes.
The NPA justifies collectiing revolutionary taxes because these plantations, some co-operated by multinational companies are guilty of dispossessing lands from peasants and indigenous peoples.
Previously, the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters (PBGEA) said NPA attacks stunt the growth of the banana export industry, which is already saddled by calamities, export regulations, and competition from other crop exporting countries.
The Philippines produced 2.27 million metric tons of banana in the second quarter of 2017, an increase of 2.7% from 2.2 million metric tons year-on-year, state statistics showed.
Davao Region is the country’s biggest producer of bananas. It harvested 917.23 thousand metric tons in the second quarter of 2017. That is 40.4% of the total national production.
Marañon, also president of microwavable frozen saba banana exporter Sagrex Corp, said protecting the banana industry through continuing peace talks is a long-term solution, given the fact that of the many cash crops in the country, bananas can be grown whole year round.
“We should always be talking to each other (to save the banana industry),” said Marañon
The government and the communist rebels began talks to end Asia's longest-running communist insurgency in August 2016, but it fell through a year later.
But the attacks of NPA rebels have earlier prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the government’s ceasefire agreement, and later cancel the peace talks between the two parties, last February.
Duterte himself called the revolutionary tax as extortion. "I refuse now to resume the talks with them until they stop this extortion... That is just a mattter of semantics. Call it a revolutionary tax, actually, it's extortion. That's why we have this fight," said Duterte.
The President’s adviser on peace process, Secretary Jesus Dureza, said that despite the absence of talks, the public can be assured that the government is pursuing peace with the rebels.
“Negotiation is only one road to peace,” he said. – Rappler.com