THE Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) again stressed that the just-concluded “road clearing” project covering the entire country ordered by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte should not be used as an excuse to implement road widening and intrusion to “private roads” located in plantations intended for the export market.

In a talk with the media, DILG undersecretary and spokesman, Jonathan Malaya, also stressed that the 60-day period to implement any road clearing had already lapsed last month.

“First of all, the deadline has lapsed, so we are just ‘sustaining’ what has been accomplished (by the LGUs).

“Second, road widening is not included, more so, private roads,” Malaya stressed, referring to the statement by Sec. Eduardo M. Año last September 19, where the DILG chief clarified the extent of the road clearing order under Memorandum Circular 2019-121 dated July 29.

Malaya made the clarification after being informed that in Davao del Norte, the country’s so-called ‘Banana Capital,’ the office of newly-elected governor, Edwin Jubahib has been persisting since last week to remove the “obstructions” to the private roads leading to the banana plantation of Tagum Agricultural Development Company (TADECO).

“Whoever is doing that (intruding into TADECO property) cannot use MC 121 for their purpose,” the official stressed.

Located in Panabo, TADECO was developed and turned into one of the country’s leading exporters of ‘Cavendish’ banana by the Floirendo family based on a long-term lease agreement with the Bureau of Corrections.

Among the “obstructions” that the provincial government allegedly wanted removed are TADECO’s “biosecurity facilities” consisting of “tire dips” for passing vehicles and the “footbaths” for pedestrians entering the plantation.

These facilities are crucial to prevent the entry of “fusarium wilt,” also known as ‘Panama Disease,’ which is a soil-borne fungal disease infecting banana plants.

Target of the belated ‘road clearing’ operation allegedly ordered by Gov. Jubahib are the entrance to the TADECO plantation in Bgy. Tanglaw, Dujali; El Canto Road in Bgy. Balagunan; and, Bugtong Lubi Road in Bgy. Bobongan, all in Davao del Norte.

Atty. Nick Banga, TADECO chief legal officer, warned the attempt by Gov. Jubahib to “remove” their biosecurity facilities to prevent the infestation of the deadly fungal disease would not only affect TADECO but other banana growers as well.

“If the camp of Gov. Jubahib believed that only TADECO would suffer should Panama Disease starts invading our plantation, they are grossly mistaken.

“This disease can spread very quickly and can result to the devastation of our entire banana industry, which is already struggling due to foreign competition and high cost of production.

“If successful, the effort of Gov. Jubahib can spell the collapse of our country’s banana industry,” Banga warned.

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