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Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA Pilipinas) is the national progressive center of unions, federations, associations and organizations of agricultural workers in the Philippines.

UMA works closely with other progressive people’s organizations in the Philippines such as the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, May First Movement), and other organizations affiliated with the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN, New Patriotic Alliance).

UMA is a member of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)

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Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura

Agricultural Workers Demand Military to Keep Out of Sumifru Strike

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today demanded that the military stay out of the ongoing strike of the 900 workers of Japanese conglomerate owned Sumifru Corporation Philippines in Compostela Valley.

According to John Milton “Butch” Lozande, secretary general of UMA, the striking workers of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA) went on strike on October 1, as management refused to engage in any negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the workers union.

NAMASUFA, which is affiliated with the National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU), paralyzed operations across eight of Sumifru’s banana packing plants. They have set up a peaceful picket and ceased all work in the plants.

On day 3 of the strike, KMU-SMR reported that around 15 unidentified men barged into the house of Sumifru worker-striker Mildred Maglahus and searched for Elizar Diayon, the union’s Vice-President. Failing to locate Diayon, the men bolted out of the house and stole the food supplies of one of the protest camps.

Earlier today, military personnel together with scabs have broken the picket line of the workers in Packing Plant 115 of Sumifru. Vans carrying stalled bananas inside the packing plant have passed through the gate. Nonetheless, the striking workers have regrouped and continue their strike.

This is alarming as an April 2018 fact-finding mission to Compostela Valley, revealed that Sumifru workers were being targeted and red-tagged by the 66th IBPA, and discouraged from joining NAMASUFA or any KMU-affiliated organization, or participating in union activities.

Other than that, since President Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao in 2017, militarization and fascist attacks against Sumifru workers and their union escalated. This included union members being accused of everything from being terrorists to being NPA members.

UMA Sec. Gen. Lozande stated that even if there is martial law in Mindanao, it does not mean that the labor rights of workers in Sumifru and elsewhere in Mindanao is already non-existent as this is guaranteed in the Constitution.

What is more alarming, though, added Lozande is the Philippine military’s mindset. Even in Batangas, where there is no formal declaration of martial law yet, the AFP and the PNP are distributing leaflets among the population  which stipulates that organizing rallies and strikes is basically a crime.

Not only is the military violating the Constitution but even international labor and human rights conventions. But ultimately, it is still the workers themselves together with the rest of the Filipino people who would resist any curtailment of their labor and human rights.

Behind them is the growing support of the working people worldwide that is doing its part isolate the repressive and tyrannical US-Duterte regime internationally.

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Sugar Workers Say Price Control Needed not Price Setting

The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) today lambasted the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for promoting sugar importation in the country in the guise of price setting.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez suggested that it will allow the importation of an additional 150,000 tons of sugar for those who can guarantee to sell these at P50 per kilo.

These would be sold in supermarkets, and DTI and DA outlet stores – DTI Suking Outlets and DA Malasakit Stores.

This is in response to President Duterte’s Administrative Order 26 which would facilitate the importation and availability of basic commodities especially sugar and rice.

According to John Milton “Butch” Lozalde, secretary general of NFSW, what the public needs including the 780,000 sugar workers nationwide is price control of sugar and not price setting.

This is allowed under  RA 7581 (Price Act of 1992): The President, upon the recommendation of the implementing agency, or the Price Coordinating Council, may impose a price ceiling on any basic necessity or prime commodity.

And as stated earlier in a previous statement, the NFSW said that any importation of sugar especially during the start of the milling season, which would be a first in the history of the Philippine sugar industry would result in further lowering the already slave like wages of the sugar workers and reduce the earnings of small planters who number another 70,000.

On a related matter, the Universal Robina Corp. (URC) of John Gokongwei in its website claims that in support of the Duterte administration’s call for businesses to help address the rising inflation, it is making available its sugar products at reduced prices. These can be bought in all of Robinsons Supermarket nationwide.

URC can very well reduce its prices as it owns 5 sugar mills and refineries and it is also engaged in the trade of raw sugar, refined sugar, and molasses. In fact, it is a Sugar Regulatory Adminsitration (SRA) registered sugar importer.

According to S&P Global Platts, the landed price of imported sugar from Thailand is just P20.25 per kilo. Importers would reap huge profits selling these to the local market.

Another SRA registered sugar importer is Macondray Philippines Co., Inc., owned by Martin Lorenzo. He is also the majority owner now of Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) in Hacienda Luisita which through its affiliate Agrikulto Inc. hired almost 900 sacadas from Mindanao in crop year 2016.

The lowest paid among the sacadas based on their payroll is P38 and the highest at P898.20 per week or from P5.43 – P128.31 a day.

If the Duterte goverenment insists in going through with the importation of sugar it will draw the ire of the 780,000 sugar workers who would not sit idly by and is already gearing for a wage hike increase and even launching land cultivation areas especially in Negros Occidental.

 

Agricultural Workers Condemn Harassment of Military Forces against its Chair

Guillermo Hernandez

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) condemns the ongoing military harassment on its Chairperson, Guillermo “Ka Gimo” Hernandez.

Ka Gimo is also the Secretary General of Kaisahan ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Batangas (KAISAHAN-Batangas) and the sugar field representative in the District Tripartite Council (DTC) in the Sugar Industry.

Since February 2018, elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with combined forces of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) 730th combat group and the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division (ID) have been asking for the whereabouts of Ka Gimo.

On July 11, the military together with the PNP set up a military detachment in Ka Gimo’s community, Brgy. Quisumbing, Calaca, Batangas.

Yesterday, August 20, two military trucks carrying soldiers and police were already looking for Ka Gimo near his house. Because of this most recent harassment, he and his wife, Marilyn, who are on the terrorist proscription list of the government cannot go home and attend to their children who are all studying.

The people of Quisumbing have a 37-year struggle against the Calaca Coal Power Plant owned by DMCI Holdings Inc. The company has originally targeted their community but because of their strong resistance, it was set up in the next barangay called San Rafael.

However, they had to struggle against the grave pollution that the power plant brought to them and other neighboring barrios. This greatly affected their fishing grounds and farming areas reducing both fish catch and planting area for subsistence crops.

Right now, most of the people in the barrio are labelled as illegal settlers even if they have been in the land for generations. A certain Gabby Tong is laying claim on their lands to set up a steel mill.

Ka Gimo and his wife have gone beyond in leading their struggle in their barrio to include other places in Batangas where peasants and fisherfolks are being threatened with eviction like those in Hacienda Looc, Laiya, Hacienda Roxas and many others. This includes organizing sugar workers in the province under KAISAHAN.

Military detachments have similarly been set up in these places with soldiers and police interrogating active members and officers of progressive organizations, including Anakpawis Partylist, intimidating them with brute force and telling them just to lie low and resign from said organizations.

In short, there is a de facto martial law prevailing in many rural areas in Batangas, as well as other parts of Luzon and Visayas. The people of Batangas in these communities including a number of their barangay officials are struggling against these fascist attacks and intimidation against their people.

We should add our voice both in the national and international levels against these attacks. Hands off Ka Gimo and all other peasant communities in Batangas!

 

Source Verification: Gi Estrada, Media Officer (09179450552)

Duterte can’t do a Pontius Pilate on Cabinet Member and Makabayan Bloc

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today stated that President Duterte cannot just wash his hands of the trumped up charges against National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary Liza Masa, ex Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Sec. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano and ex. Bayan Muna legislators Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino.

UMA Secretary General John Milton “Butch”Lozande said, that President Duterte can very well designate Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra to intervene on said case. This involves a Commission head under the Office of the President and high profile persons and the case is clearly weak and cannot prosper in a proper court.

By saying that Malacanang would just like the legal process to run its course, is like saying that it tolerates witch hunting against its own official and political persecution against the progressive party list. Even if the case was done in an irregular manner and similar cases were junked off hand by another court and even by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

A warrant of arrest has been issued on July 11 against the 4 ex legislators of the Makabayan bloc over “trumped-up” murder charges filed in 2006. Supposedly they were linked to the killings of the political opponents of Bayan Muna in Nueva Ecija.

The case was even used against them to seek their disqualification to run during the 2007 elections, which was later junked by the COMELEC.

In addition to this, the two named Peralta and Bayudang who filed the case against the four were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

What is clear though, according to Ka Butch is that the case is intended to politically persecute the progressive movement in the country, especially after its successful United Sona protest action on July 23. And this in turn if not stopped would lead to a further tightening tyrannical rule in the country.

Will Duterte Brag about the BI’s Deportation Order Against Sr. Pat in his SONA Speech?

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today asked President Duterte if during his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) speech, will he  brag about the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) deportation order yesterday against Sr. Patricia (Pat) Fox and other human rights violations of his regime which the Australian nun advocates?

John Milton “Butch” Lozande, secretary general of UMA described the timing of the BI’s decision just 4 days before the SONA like a gift to the President, who then can say that this is one of his greatest achievements for the past year.

He can also add, according to Mr. Lozande, the persecution being heaped on the1,607 Lumads from Lianga, Surigao del Sur, who were forced to leave their homes on July 16 because of military atrocities.

They sought refuge at the Diatagon Barangay Gym, but the military continues to prevent anybody including initially even church people from providing them with humanitarian aid like food and water. It is good that Catholic Bishop Raul Dael, Bishop of Tandag was able to visit them two nights ago.

Sr. Pat got the ire of the President himself for joining an International Fact Finding Mission in Mindanao from April 6 – 9 this year to document cases of similar human rights violations there.

We also support wholeheartedly Sr. Pat’s lawyers’ efforts to face and fight this deportation case in all avenues and exhaust the remedies available to them.

The persecution of Sr. Pat for assisting those who are deprived and oppressed as part of her missionary work will only make more people join the United Peoples SONA on July 23.

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Agricultural Workers Denounce De Facto Nationwide Martial Law Under the Duterte Regime

The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) vehemently condemns the escalating crackdown on activists, human rights defenders and advocate groups including on one of its national staff members involved in the Hands Off Sr. Pat Campaign. In essence, there is a de facto nationwide martial law under the Duterte regime.

According to UMA Secretary General John Milton “Butch” Lozande, Nadja de Vera, UMA’s national staff member and who is also an active volunteer in the Hands Off Sr. Pat Campaign, has been harassed by state agents.

On June 23, 2018, 5 days after the Department of Justice (DOJ) released its order to nullify the forfeiture of visa against Sister Pat and ordered the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to pursue the cancellation of visa and deportation case, a state agent broke and entered the house of Nadja de Vera and her family, between 1 to 5 PM.

Several items were stolen. Among these were a USB, external hard drive, smart and other phones, laptop, and a tablet.

Then from July 2-5, 6 suspected state agents in 2 motorcycles and one Revo vehicle including the person who broke in Nadja’s house were seen stalking her place.

Earlier on May 26, 2018, the day after Sr. Pat filed her Petition for Review at the DOJ against the Bureau of Immigration’s order for Sr. Pat to leave the country and the DOJ released a decision in favour of Sr. Pat, there was an attempt to enter Nadja’s house when no one was home. The state agent tried to break the door’s hinge lock.

Ka Butch added that “the continuing threats, harassment, intimidation, surveillance even of its national staff and illegal arrests and killings of agricultural workers and peasants all over the country are clear indications that we are under a Nationwide Martial Law. We need to become more vigilant and assert our rights in the face of Duterte’s intensifying dictatorship and tyranny.”

In Mindanao, the 8th IBPA illegally arrested 6 peasant women who are members of UMA-member Onyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (OGYON) in Bukidnon on July 3. The next day, peasant and lumad leaders were placed under illegal mass arrest in General Santos City during a seminar. Not to mention the spate of political killings with the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.

While in Visayas, Julius Barellano, peasant leader of UMA-member National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) was shot to death last June 27. The military has also red-tagged farmers who were simply asserting their right to their lands through bungkalan or land cultivation in Negros Occidental. Part of the red-tagging is the inclusion of NFSW leaders and members of other progressive organizations in public posters of alleged armed rebels in the town of Moises Padilla and other parts of Negros Occidental in April.

And in Luzon, around 27 peasant leaders and farmers in Batangas, a number of which belong to an organization under UMA, were filed with trumped-up charges and included in the DOJ terrorist. Currently, the military has been circling barangays in Calaca, Nasugbu, Lian, San Juan, and Rosario, among others.

“The people do not need an actual pronouncement on television to see that we live in a dictatorship and murderers run free. They are not fooled by Malacanang’s lies as it denies that a climate of impunity exists while day after day another peasant leader, priest, or lumad is either killed, detained or arrested,” Lozande stated.

Agricultural workers vow to intensify its campaign in exposing and opposing Duterte’s atrocities with a huge number from its ranks joining the mobilization during the SONA on July 23.

Lozande added, “In the weeks to come, the masses are getting more organized and becoming more united. In Duterte’s third and perhaps his last SONA, he will know the full meaning of what no lie-spouting machine could ever deny—that sovereignty will and has always resided with the Filipino people.”###

Agricultural Workers Say With or Without New Constitution AFP Will never be Protectors of the People

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) declares that with or without a new Constiution, the Armed Forces of the Philippines will never be a protector of the people.

According to UMA Secretary General John Milton Lozande, the AFP recently made a big fuss about the removal in the proposed federal Constitution a provision describing the AFP as “protector of the people”.

But its fangs came out, when the AFP stated that Human Security Act is inutile, because according to them nobody was indicted for it as terrorists. Other than that, the AFP opposed limiting the conduct of electronic surveillance without any warrant.

And it is not like the AFP has ever let the constitution stopped it from abusing its power.

From July 2016 to December 2017, Karapatan’s year-end report documented 126 victims of political killings; 235 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings; 930 of illegal arrest; 362,355 of indiscriminate firing; 426,590 of forced evacuation, and 56,456 of threat, harassment & intimidation.

Clearly, protecting the people is the AFP’s least priority. Ensuring that there will be just and lasting peace does not run in favor to its US masters that have been funneling multi-million dollar funds for Oplan Kapayapaan (OpKap).

OpKap is the government’s counter-insurgency program that has only resulted to massive attacks and criminalization of individuals and communities who are simply asserting their right to land, just wages, job security and humane working conditions.

OpKap also works to protect big-corporate interests as seen from their continuing presence in rural communities where agribusiness plantations are operating and expanding, especially in Mindanao.

A recent report from the International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission (IFSM) conducted last April 6-9 in Mindanao documented political killings of farmers, peasant leaders and land reform advocates. Some were killed right in their homes in the presence of their family members and other civilians, while some were murdered in their farms. These incidences were often preceded by red-tagging by the AFP, accusing them of being members or supporters of the New People’s Army.

Lozande added, “Serving the people, especially peasants and agriworkers, is not in the AFP’s best interest. This is evident in the AFP’s role in the stalling of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and later on postponement of the 4th round of official talks.”

Here, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), a document that guarantees free land distribution, rural development and national industrialization, was set to be signed.

Lozande stated, “It is now in the people’s hands, led by the country’s huge peasantry together with workers, lumad groups, church people and other sectors, to not only resist the continuing repression and oppression of Duterte’s fascist state but also to make genuine agrarian reform a reality for all.”###

Agricultural Workers Condemn Duterte’s Intensifying War against Peasants

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today decried the Duterte regime’s intensifying war against peasants including agricultural workers.

According to UMA Secretary General John Milton “Butch” Lozande, the military under the 8th IBPA illegally mass arrested additional 6 women farm workers on July 3, 2018 in Brgy. New Eden, Pangantucan, Bukidnon.

They were accused by the military of being supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA). The 6 are members of Onyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (OGYON), which is a member organization of UMA.

The soldiers have been occupying the barangay hall of New Eden for a month now. This incident is the latest among false accusations and arbitrary arrests perpetrated by the military against members of OGYON.

Edilberto Yurong of New Eden, Wenerito Bahian and Gerry Bagiou, both from nearby Brgy. Concepcion were all arrested by State forces on June 30. Ricky Omandam was earlier arrested on June 17. All of them are detained in an army detachment in Mampayag, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

Other than the above, at least 13 church workers and activists were arrested on July 4, while attending a seminar on farmers and lumad issues at the Mother Francisca and Spirituality Center in General Santos City.

A number of those arrested are leaders of militant organizations which included Datu Jomorito Guaynon, chairperson of the Kalumbay Lumad organization; Ireneo Udarbe, chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao Region; Vennel Chenfoo, chairperson of the Kabataan Partylist-NMR; Kristine Cabardo, chairperson of the League of Filipino Students-NMR; Teresita Naul of human rights group Karapatan; Aldeem Yanez, church worker of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente; and farmer leader Roger Plana.

Also arrested were the security guard and staff of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Visayas-Mindanao Regional Office for Development (IFI-VIMROD).

Peasants are also the biggest number of persons extra-judicially killed for political reasons under the Duterte regime.

On the other hand, the President has the gall to say that he will pursue land reform even if his government cancelled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Clearly this is contradictory to what government forces on the ground, by labeling those who are pursuing genuine agrarian reform as enemies of the state.

“Inspite of this, agricultural workers, together with other sectors, continue to resist the repression of the Duterte regime. As Duterte continues to unleash the full scope of its tyrannical rule, the people strengthens its resolve to fight and end its reign of terror,” Lozande ended.

UMA

Agricultural Workers Condemn Killing of Local Leader in Negros

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) condemns vehemently the killing of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), local leader Julius Broce Barellano this morning by suspected goons of those who are coveting lands of the farm workers in Sitio Medina, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.

According to Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Secretary General John Milton Lozande, Mr. Barellano died of gunshot wounds inflicted by a motor cycling guman in his chest while he was about to enter his house. Mr. Barellano is the Chairperson of Hda. Medina Farm Workers Association, which is a local chapter of the NFSW. NFSW is a member of UMA.

Said members of the Association are struggling to defend their lands and homes from ejectment by a local businessman. Said land of the Hacienda had been foreclosed by a bank and is being claimed by a businessman named Wellington Uy, who states that he was the one who bought the land. He wants to turn the area into a tourist area and also has a quarry of sand and gravel near the river.

Mr. Uy tried to eject the tenants three times, but all of his efforts were rejected by the courts. NFSW believes that the only suspect that would want to get rid of Mr. Barellano is Mr. Uy.

Mr. Barellano is the third NFSW local leader killed during the regime of President Duterte. Flora Jemola, chairperson of NFSW-Sagay was stabbed to death by suspected CAFGU’s on December 21, 2017.

Alexander Ceballos, regional council member of NFSW, on the other was shot in Don Salvador Benedicto by alleged gun for hire goons of former Mayor Dela Cruz’ family on January 20, 2017.

While Webby T. Argabio Sr., council member of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Kabankalan City Chapter.was killed by four assasins on November 8, 2017 in Sitio Abtao, Barangay Tapi, Kabankalan City. All of them were invloved in land struggles.

Negros island is still a bastion of landlordism and the hacienda system is still deeply entrenched there. That is why the farmworkers and farmers have been conducting several land cultivation areas (LCAs) in the island since 2006 covering more than 100 haciendas.

The recent statement made by Brigadier General Eliezer Losañes, 303rd commanding officer of the Philippine Army that the LCAs are New People’s Army (NPA) rebels communal farms and even President Duterte’s recent decision to postpone and probably cancel the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are signals for despotic landlords, landgrabbers and even the military to eradicate any opposition against their exploitative and oppressive policies.

UMA and NFSW would not back down in defending the rights of the farmworkers and farmers to assert their rights to their lands which failed to be distributed by bogus land reform laws by all governments that enacted them including one that the President wants to pursue.

We call on all our local chapters to intensify campaigns against killings and other human rights violations perpetuated by landlords and state mercenaries, holding the Duterte regime accountable for its gruesome policies of propagating injustice and impunity.

JuliusNFSW

Regularize all Agricultural Workers and Implement a P750 Daily National Minimum Wage

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) calls on Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III to regularize all agricultural workers in and outside DOLE’s list of those engaged in labor-only contracting and implement a P750 national daily minimum wage for all workers.

UMA also supports the call of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives to abolish the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) and its 17 Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs), which has been mandated to fix and regulate the minimum wage in the provinces.

Among those in DOLE’s top 20 list engaged in labor-only contracting are transnational companies, Dole Philippines Inc. (Dolefil), Dole Stanfilco, and Sumifru Philippines, Corp.

Even the local government of Polomolok, South Cotabato where the cannery of Dole Philippines is located in its Municipal Comprehensive Development Plan from 2017-2022 stated that the company engaged in massive lay-off and contractual hiring from 1995-2000.

The LGU also observed that multi-national companies exploited human resource because of sub-contracting scheme of employment like the manpower agencies and cooperatives tolerated by the government. It also stated that this will lead to poverty if it is unresolved.

Sumifru, on the other hand, besides engaging in labor only contracting, historically has had several labor violations. These include unfair labor practice; illegal dismissal, suspension and harassment of union officers/members; and violation/non-implementation of Collective Bargaining Agreement, among others.

The list compiled by the Labor Department does not include growers under Dolefil and Sumifru who cannot pay their workers even the minimum wage because both transnational corporations buy their produce at very low prices.

Sumifru buys Class A bananas from its growers in Compostela Valley for only $4.25/box. The company though sells its so-called “Banappuru” from the Philippines at 3 packs of 350 grams each or 1.05 kg for JPY 1,360 yen or PHP 659.62. With one box of bananas containing an average of 13.5 kg of bananas, this is equivalent to PHP 8,480.83 or USD 160.97 per box.

Dolefil, on the other hand buys pineapples from its growers at P3.50 per kilo for regular size and P1.50 for smaller ones. Meanwhile, independent growers can sell them to the local market at up to P20 per kilo.

Fresh pineapples are sold in the US at 63 cents (P33.19) per pound or US$1.386 (73.01) per kilo.

These corporations and all other agribusiness companies could very well regularize their workers and pay them at P750 per day without even significantly reducing their multi-billion profits.750