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SUMIFRU gives livelihood program to fired workers

A Davao-based fruit exporter is offering a livelihood program to hundreds of workers displaced in a labor unrest last year in Compostela Valley.

On Friday, SUMIFRU Philippines with the partnership of the local and national government offices launched Compostela Tulong Pangkabuhayan, which aims to assist around 450 workers who refused to return to work after a labor strike last year.

At least 20 displaced workers already accepted the program during the launch but SUMIFRU President Paul Cuyegken said they want all the 450 displaced workers to avail of the project.

“We don’t want anyone to be left behind,” Cuyegken told reporters in an interview after the launching at the Coco’s Hotel, Compostela, Compostela Valley.

The initial livelihood program given to the 20 beneficiaries, mostly leaders of the 2018 labor strike, included swine raising, dressmaking & tailoring, and vegetable and corn planting.

But it may be expanded to other enterprises such as fish production in the landlocked town of Compostela in Compostela Valley, as requested by the beneficiaries.

Eric Tubo, SUMIFRU Community Development Officer, said they initially poured P200,000 for the first batch — or P10,000 for each of the 20 beneficiaries. With the rate, the company may allocate P4.5 million for the project.

But Tubo said SUMIFRU is not alone in providing financial and other assistance to the beneficiaries as it is in collaboration with other government agencies.

Tubo said the project, aimed to be a sustainable community development project, is aided by the provincial government of Compostela Valley, the town government of Compostela, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Agriculture (DA), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Land Bank of the Philippines and the service providers and cooperatives affiliated with SUMIFRU.

The DOLE, he said, is also giving financial counterpart to the beneficiaries while DA will also provide agricultural supplies, training and the marketing of the products. TESDA provides various training and seminars while the Land Bank commits to finance projects.

Both the AFP and PNP assure security to the beneficiaries as they want a peaceful community.

SUMIFRU is asking the service providers and cooperatives to rehire the displaced workers, Tubo said.

Compostela Valley Gov. Jayvee Tyron L. Uy is hoping that the livelihood program will be the start of healing process for the reconciliation and understanding between SUMIFRU and the protesting workers.

Last year, hundreds of workers staged a strike demanding for regularization and increase of salary. The labor unrest led to the displacement of 450 workers, the SUMIFRU claimed.

Yayo Blanco, one of the former strikers who accepted the livelihood program, said they left the labor group because they realized that it only peddled lies and nothing came out from their protest.

“I lost job, my family suffered,” he said.

He expressed relief that they are getting livelihood assistance, which he considered as a second chance in life.

Also on that day, the town government of Compostela awarded the SUMIFRU for its contribution to the community.

Mayor Lema Bolo said SUMIFRU has been a great partner in the development of the town.

SUMIFRU is buying banana from growers who maintain a total of 2,200-hectare plantation in the town.

The SUMIFRU operation in the town, the local government said, generated 3,200 direct workers – 2,000 growers workers and 1,200 packing plant service providers’ workers in 11 packing plants.

There is an average monthly monetary flow of at least P120 million – 90 million for growers proceeds and 30 million for salaries and wages – in the town alone.

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