South Cotabato

Tbolis cut down thousands of firm’s banana plants in South Cotabato

Rommel Rebollido

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Tbolis cut down thousands of firm’s banana plants in South Cotabato

ANGRY. Irate Tboli landowners cut down banana plants on a 10-hectare portion of the Sumifru banana plantation in Tboli town, South Cotabato.

PNP Tboli

Landowners accuse Sumifru of failing to fulfill their tax obligations for the leased properties as agreed upon

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Angry owners of vast tracts of land leased by a fruit-exporting company cut down thousands of banana plants within the firm’s plantation in Tboli town, South Cotabato, on Saturday, March 16.

The incident, affecting 10 hectares, took place within the plantation of the fruit exporter Sumifru Philippines Corporation.

It was the most recent in a series of confrontations between the company and owners of the properties Sumifru leased for 25 years for their banana plantation in Tboli and Surallah towns, South Cotabato.

The cutting of banana plants was a retaliation by landowners after Sumifru guards dismantled barricades that were set up to protest and demand that the company make good on its promise to pay the taxes for the properties leased to Sumifru.

Sumifru, on its social media page, said it operates a 14,000-hectare banana plantation in Mindanao. Among these are leased farms in the villages of New Dumangas, Laconon, and Salakafe in Tboli.

Around 80% of the Sumifru banana plantation is rented by the company from Tboli landowners, while the rest are company-owned.

Gelina Dulan, a landowner, told authorities who arrived to intervene in the cutting of banana plants, said they would only stop cutting if the company also halts its operations and talks with them.

She said they were supposed to meet with the company’s executives on February 16, but it did not push through because of a confusion she blamed on Sumifru officials.

Dulan said this prompted organized landowners to set up barricades around the rented portions of the banana plantation, a move they have done several times in the past. Sumifru began operations in Tboli in 2003.

Dulan said Sumifru was remiss in its commitment to pay for the real property taxes for the pieces of land they rented, putting these properties at risk of being seized and auctioned off by the provincial government.

The landowners sought the intervention of South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., who had repeatedly warned that for Sumifru’s failure to pay the overdue taxes, the provincial government will ban the company from doing business in South Cotabato.

Based on the records of the South Cotabato Provincial Treasurer’s Office, Sumifru has a tax delinquency amounting to about P2.7 million for its own properties alone as of November 2023, while the landowners also owe the provincial government around P27 million.

Dulan said that in their lease agreement, Sumifru agreed to pay the annual real property taxes for the leased properties, but it failed to do so.

Another landowner, Ben Diyan, said the problem about the non-payment of taxes has hounded them for years, and they even sought the help of the then-president Rodrigo Duterte in prodding the fruit firm to abide by their agreement.

He said Sumifru has only been paying them meager rent, not even enough to compensate them for their difficulties.

“We cannot plant vegetables or raise animals with the toxic aerial spraying of Sumifru in the banana plantation,” he said.

He said their contract with Sumifru includes health services for the landowners, but this, too, did not materialize.

Diyan said they have been pleading with the company for years to abide by their contract and to comply with the tax requirements, but all these fell on deaf ears.

Provincial Treasury Officer Alvim Batol told local broadcaster Top Gun Radio Koronadal that they have already set for auction the properties with long overdue taxes, but Sumifru lodged before the courts a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO).

Sumifru has yet to respond to the allegations hurled against it. This report will be updated once Sumifru responds. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    This should be a lesson to the affected landowners to refrain from renewing their contract with SUMIFRO only if they still own their lands after the contract expires. The Provincial Government “have already set for auction the properties with long overdue taxes.” This means it has not considered the auction’s adverse effect on the landowners. The Provincial Government and SUMIFRO are merely looking after their interest, a sad reality for the affected landowners.

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