NPA rebels urged to work in oil palm plantation

Posted on May 19, 2014

DAVAO CITY -- Employment in an oil palm plantation could be an alternative livelihood for communist rebels, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte said.

Mr. Duterte said a Malaysian firm has expressed intention to establish up to 50,000 hectares of oil palm plantations all over Mindanao with the city’s Paquibato district, an area highly suitable to the crop, as a priority site.

However, Mr. Duterte admitted that Paquibato is a lair of the rebel group New People’s Army (NPA).

Thus, he plans to talk to Leoncio Pitao, alias Kumander Parago, to offer his proposal for the rebels to work in the proposed oil palm plantation and see if they want that type of life instead of living in the mountains and fighting the government.

There is no need for the rebels to surrender, Mr. Duterte told reporters. “Just stop the war, bury your arms and work,” he said.

Once an agreement with rebels is reached, the mayor vowed to talk to the Malaysian firm and will ask the company to provide employment only for Paquibato residents.

“This is a good opportunity for the rebels and if they agree to welcome the Malaysian investors and let them work peacefully in the area, then I will give this to them,” he said.

The establishment of an oil palm plantation in Paquibato is expected to spur economic growth in the area, which will address economic woes among the residents as well as the rebels.

Mr. Duterte said he could not blame the residents of Paquibato for supporting the rebels because they have lived in poverty for years. The only way to address their problem is to provide a livelihood opportunity for them and this is a good opportunity, he added.

Mr. Duterte, however, warned the rebels not to ask revolutionary taxes or exorbitant wages from the investors since minimum wage is fair enough. Paquibato is more than an hour’s drive from the city center.

Dr. Pablito P. Pamplona, secretary of the Davao Oriental oil palm development council, has urged the government to promote the crop among investors as it is a lucrative industry.

Among the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, only the Philippines has not taken full advantage of the opportunity offered by oil palm with only 45,608 hectares planted to the crop compared with Thailand’s 625,000 hectares, Malaysia’s 4.5 million hectares and Indonesia’s 7.5 million hectares.

Mr. Pamplona said oil palm is an ideal crop for farmers who want to earn more because they can harvest within two and a half years. -- Carmencita A. Carillo