DAVAO CITY — Banana farming company Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI) has asked the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council to allow it to create an “ad hoc negotiation task force” to resolve the remaining issues on its lease arrangement with a minority of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).
In a statement released over the weekend, MEPI said the request was filed after the company signed last week with 17 ARBs a “document which allows them to enjoy higher land rental rates.”
These rates were previously only given to members of the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries-Multi-Purpose Cooperative, the largest cooperative in the plantation.
The 17 ARBs, the company added, are members of the Sto. Tomas Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative.
At present, 502 ARBs, comprising two-thirds of the total, have signed the new deal under the agribusiness venture agreements, which have been amended four times since last year.
MEPI Chief Operating Officer Victor S. Mercado, Jr. said the land rental rate is P50,000 a hectare and is retroactive to 2017.
He added that this rate “remains the highest in the industry.”
Each ARB is also offered a health insurance benefit of P100,000 per ailment per year for those under 75, mortuary benefit of P25,000, and the right to nominate one employee for the company.
The new agreement was a result of the company’s meeting with the ARBs last month, presided over by the Department of Agrarian Reform.
Mr. Mercado said the new offer “still stands for the other minority ARBs who have yet to accept the increased rental and other privileges.” — Carmelito Q. Francisco