MISAMIS Oriental provincial board member Benedict Lagbas yesterday said A. Brown Co. has been illegally operating in barangays Tingalan and Bagocboc in Opol, Misamis Oriental. Speaking before the provincial board, Lagbas said A. Brown's operations in the Opol villages were not in accordance with existing forest and environmental laws. He cited as basis a statement from a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Lagbas said a DENR official revealed to the provincial board's agriculture committee last week that A. Brown has no permit from the DENR. He identified the official as Enrique Tuquib, head of the DENR's Community-based Forest Management Division. "The A. Brown Co. has no permit to operate from DENR," said Lagbas, chairperson of the agriculture committee.
Citing Tuquib's repor t, Lagbas said the 520-hectare property being used by A. Brown used to be covered by an lease agreement with businessman Victor Paras. He said the agreement was cancelled by DENR in March 2011. Lagbas said even A. Brown representative Rufino Magbanua admitted during the committee meeting that the firm had "lapses." "During the meeting, Magbanua admitted that there were some violations. He said they continued despite having no clearance from the DENR," said Lagbas. He said he was told the firm has so far used 400 hectares in the property turned into a palm tree plantation.
Magbanua told members of the committee that they have sought some consideration from the DENR by seeking the necessary papers. He said it was the company's desire to help members of the indigenous people's group in Opol by providing them work in the plantation. Magbanua said palm oil firm's operaions requires intensive labor. He said the company has employed 175 plantation maintenance workers with basic minimum wages. He also said the company has invested not less than P22 million to develop the area.