• Rebels own up raid on Japanese fruit exporter in Mindanao

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist rebels have owned up to a daring assault on a Japanese fruit exporter in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.

    Mamerto Bagani, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said rebel forces raided the banana plantation and packaging facility of Sumitomo Fruits in the village of Barobo in Bukidnon’s Valencia City as a punitive action in retaliation for its anti-people activities and land grabbing.

    Bagani also accused the Japanese firm as anti-labor and engaging in environmentally-destructive operations of their pineapple and banana plantations. He said some P11 million worth of equipment were destroyed by rebels, although there were no casualties in the recent attack.

    “The damages incurred by SUMIFRU reportedly amounted to P11 million after the NPA attacked its banana packing house and paralyzed a cargo truck, a backhoe, six assorted machines and three laptop computers,” Bagani said, adding, rebels also seized a shotgun and a revolver after disarming the company guards during the raid.

    “The company expansion operations, now covering more than 5,000 hectares, continue to control vast tracts of agricultural land in two cities and two municipalities in Bukidnon. Peasants and (indigenous) lumads were thus displaced and driven away from their lands. Many of them are enslaved by the foreign company as wage laborers,” Bagani said.

    He said SUMIFRU also wreaked havoc on the environment due to its destructive operations.

    “Chemicals and waste from its plantations pollute the water, air and the soil. This aggravates climate change and victimizes the poor people who are most vulnerable to natural calamities. Residents near the plantation, as well as workers themselves, complain of the adverse effects of chemicals on their health. The company pays no heed even as many people are plagued with skin diseases,” he said.

    Last year, rebel forces also raided SUMIFRU’s operations in the village of Bangbang in North Cotabato’s Matalam town. The rebels disarmed the guards and seized a shotgun and radio equipment before torching four trucks.

    The company did not issue any statement on the latest rebel attack, but it started its operation in the southern Philippines in 1970—growing bananas and in 1990 it introduced Gracio brand of bananas.

    It now engages in the sourcing, production, shipment and marketing of various fresh fruits, primarily the bananas, pineapple and papaya and exports them to Japan, China, Korea, the Middle East, New Zealand and Russia.

    The NPA has been fighting for decades now trying to establish a separate state in the country. AL JACINTO

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