Post-Pablo layoffs in Mindanao banana plantations hit

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LABOR center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today banana firms operating in Mindanao for announcing the retrenchment of workers on the basis of the “challenges” faced by the banana export sector in recent months, saying the firms show no concern for their workers’ plight.

Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association Inc. (PBGEA), said several natural and man-made disasters including typhoon “Pablo” caused a decrease in production last year, which in turn resulted in lower export earnings.

“For decades, banana firms have reaped huge profits from the labor of the workers and people of Mindanao. It is reprehensible that they will now retrench workers when they can maintain employment by absorbing a minor cut in their profits,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.

“Banana firms are rejecting an opportunity to help the workers who are responsible for their big profits. They are thinking of their profits only, showing no concern whatsoever for workers and poor people who are trying to rebuild their lives after typhoon Pablo,” he added.

“They are showing greed for profits amidst a disaster situation. It’s the workers and poor people in Mindanao who were devastated by the disasters there more than the plantation firms,” he said.

“This clearly shows that what Mindanao needs right now is not the return of for-export plantations but genuine land reform aimed at providing the food needs of the people there,” Soluta said.

The labor center added that for-export plantations in Mindanao employ only a small section of the population, damage the soil for the planting of food crops, and do not produce the food crops that are badly needed by people in Pablo-devastated areas.

KMU also noted that PBGEA’s statement runs counter to data released by the Department of Agriculture showing banana exports more than doubled from 1.8 million metric tons in 2011 to 3.8 million metric tons in 2012.

Clarito Barron, director of the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry, said demand from traditional buyers remain strong, new markets are opening up, there is a projected increase in exports this year, and “the banana industry can easily recover.”

“Government data imply that capitalists in the banana industry are lying and overstating losses to justify workforce adjustments in order to further boost profits. They are exploiting a disaster situation for their selfish ends,” Soluta said.

“The Aquino government should do better than depend on these greedy liars to create jobs in Mindanao. It should implement a genuine land reform program in Mindanao directed at meeting the people’s food needs,” he added.

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