Trade alliance airs concerns on agri contracts with Chinese

By Marvyn N. Benaning
Published online on the April 11, 2007 issue of the Manila Bulletin

The Fair Trade Alliance (FTA), headed by convenor former senator Wigberto Tañada, has raised serious doubts on the benefits the country would derive from the 19 agreements signed by the government – which permit Chinese corporations to exploit Philippine land and sea in exchange for a P244-billion investment commitments.In particular, the FTA also said the these deals violate the 1987 Constitution that limits foreign ownership of strategic businesses and restricts foreign leases of land to only 1,000 hectares renewable after 25 years.

Surprisingly, even employees of the DA and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) have questioned the deals and asked how such a strategic move could have been made without informing millions of farmers, including beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) who would surely be affected.

Earlier, leaders of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) revealed that Chinese companies have offered to buy properties in Central Luzon and discussed the matter with several governors.

Purportedly, these companies had $ 50 billion in cold cash to engage in the buying spree of fertile agricultural land to produce rice, corn, sugarcane, sweet sorghum, cassava, fruits, vegetables, and other crops, KMP said.

FTA officials led by former Sen. Wigberto Tañada questioned the direct benefits from the deals, which were hatched late last year by the Dapartment of Agriculture.

Another issue slapped on the promoters of the deals is the suspicion that the supposed Filipino partners of the Chinese investors may actually be dummies, leading to fears that these joint venture partners may actually be mere employees.

Not only Filipinos but also US corporations have become skeptical of the 19 deals, which comes at a time when many Filipino farmers have been reeling under the adverse impact of globalization that has allowed the influx of highly subsidized foreign vegetables and other commodities as the tariff wall was dismantled.

One question put forward by the FTA was the legitimacy of the joint venture partners of the Chinese corporations like Beidahung, which is the corporate vehicle of the provincial government of Heilongjiang.

In particular, the FTA found out that a Chinese national was an incorporator of the Philippine-China Fisheries Consortium, which has an authorize capital stock of P1 million.

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