TADECO exec, Alvarez clash over BuCor deal

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 09 2017 05:42 PM

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. File

Speaker insists it's a bad joint venture for gov't

The Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (TADECO), through its President Alex Viloria, debunked all the allegations raised by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez against its joint venture agreement (JVA) with the Bureau of Corrections for a banana farm at the Davao penal colony. 

Alvarez had called the agreement disadvantageous but Viloria stressed that the agreement had passed the scrutiny of the Justice department across different administrations. Viloria insists the JVA was meant to offer an opportunity for the rehabilitation of the prisoners.

Viloria also dispelled claims that the JVA is disadvantageous because BuCor gets only P26-million per year, saying that TADECO paid BuCor a total of P142-million in 2016.

"This is in the records of receipts of the bureau. This equates to P26,900. We emphasize that TADECO paid BuCor not only the guaranteed annual production profit share, but also the inmates' farm training support, stipend and support program, the training subsidy," he said.

"The financial benefits paid by TADECO from 2004 to 2016 amounts to P1.6-billion, but the JVA is not only about money, " he said. 

Viloria added that apart from the inmates, the banana operations also created some 30,000 jobs, direct and indirect ancillary roles which translate to the "secured livelihood and future of 181,000 Filipinos."

Viloria also rebutted claims by the Solicitor General Jose Calida and Alvarez that the JVA violates the Public Land Act. 

"The provision the Solicitor General refers to does not apply to the lands of the BuCor. The provision he stated refers to alienable and disposable lands in the public domain," he said.

"The land of the BuCor is a government reservation and is therefore inalienable land. As such it cannot be subject of occupation and sale lease and other disposition and indeed there is no disposition of the land as the agreement between BuCor and TADECO is a JV [joint venture]."

Viloria also pointed out that the agreement is a JVA and not a lease precisely because the property cannot be leased out since it is a government reservation. 

"It cannot be a lease as the principal objective is the rehabilitation of inmates. It cannot be a proper subject of a lease agreement under Section 3, Article 7 of the 1987 Constitution. The SolGen himself stated that the agreement is a JV."

Viloria also disputed claims that the actual selling price of bananas is bigger than the amount represented by the shares in the profits paid to BuCor. 

"$12 a box price for bananas--how we wish that were true. Unfortunately, it's not the truth, otherwise all the dependent growers would be driving a Mercedes Benz," he said.

"The spot prices for China market swing wild, reaching $9 per box; but for the greater part of year, rock bottom; TADECO has 12,000 employees and their families to take care of, thus we must take a longer view."

Viloria also denied reports that the TADECO maltreats its workers, saying this is the "most hurting" of all the allegations thrown against them.

"It is well known [that] TADECO is one of the best employers in the agricultural sector. Of course, a person can always be found who is willing to be convinced to speak badly about the company or person and indeed we were made aware there have been some operatives moving around our nearby communities looking for such persons," he said.

ALVAREZ: JVA IS DISADVANTAGEOUS TO GOV'T 

Alvarez then questioned Viloria after his presentation, trying to debate the latter on points he has raised.

Alvarez said there has to be a reason to justify a JVA. "Be honest. Wag mo na kami bolahin, sabihin mo na totoo."

Viloria said, "we do indeed a commercial objective separate to the objective we're trying to achieve with BuCor in the JVA. certainly we are able to derive also a commercial advantage. "

Alvarez pointed out that TADECO pays guaranteed rental and shares from the banana sales. Viloria initially declined to give out the selling price because it is confidential, but Alvarez argued that there are no confidentiality agreements when pursuing a JVA with government.

Alvarez added, "I think it's clear it's not really a JVA. It's not really a joint venture agreement; it's a rental. Am i correct? In essence, it is a rental. Wag na tayo maglokohan. Ikaw naman, magagalit mga congressman dito, niloloko mo."

Viloria refuted this.

In an ambush interview, Alvarez stood his ground, saying the JVA argument may have been floated to justify the lack of bidding for the award.

"Alam naman natin na gaya nga ng napag-usapan ay malinaw sa Saligang Batas [na] di pwede mag-lease ng government land [kung] more than 1,000 hecatres. Ito, mahigit 5,000 hectares," he said.

"To justify to make it appear [na] di siya straight release, ginagawa JVA. Malinaw naman sa pag-tanong na P5,000 na binibigay sa government, yun ay rental at yung share ng government na mahigit piso ay yun yung kunwari in addition o the rental.

"Malinaw naman sagot nila: p5,000 rental yun. Kung rental yan, eh di lease, di ho ba?"

Alvarez reiterated that the JVA had profit as an objective. 

"Kaya nga kanina nilinaw ko, ano ba primary purpose ng TADECO? Di ho ba for profit? Inamin naman nila kasi wala namang gagong korporasyon because they're not engaged into rehabilitation of prisoners. In fact, yung primary purpose ng corporation is not to rehabilitate prisoners, but really for commercial."

Alvarez, meantime, disagreed with the position of the Justice department that asked President Duterte to cancel the JVA, stressing this can be done at a lower level. 

"Sa tingin ko, di kailangan Presidente ang mag-cancel ng kontrata dahil walang kinalaman ang Presidente. The first contract was signed by the secretary of justice, pero itong huling kontrata, pinrimahan lang ng usec [undersecretary]," he said.

The committee will conduct one more hearing on this subject before making its recommendations. Alvarez said there are both criminal and civil aspects to the case. 

Alvarez meantime refuted observations that this whole investigation is just a side effect of his personal spat with Floirendo, his former friend and an owner of TADECO. 

"Alam mo, ganito yan: paghiwalayin natin. Let's judge the facts as it is. Wag natin haluan ng kung anuman yung recado. Tingnan muna natin: tama ba 'to? [Hindi] ba nalulugi ang gobyerno? Totoo ba yung kontrata? Highly disadvantageous to the government? Yun ang dapat tingnan natin, if it is not highly disadvantageous to the government. Then we entertain other reasons and other motives."

The Alvarez-Floirendo spat supposedly began from a personal spat involving their girlfriends. Floirendo also is rumored to be engineering Alvarez's ouster from the speakership, a rumor he has denied.