Marsman Estate Plantation Inc. (MEPI) and more than 600 agrarian reform beneficiaries have signed an 80% increase in the annual lease package making it P90,000 per hectare per year, inclusive of production incentive. This is by far the highest on record in the country’s agrarian reform program.
Victor Mercado Jr., MEPI President and Chief Operating Officer, said “the increase in rental from P50,000 per year was accommodated at the request of the ARBs under the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries-Multi-Purpose Cooperative (DAMARB-MPC). The land that was distributed to the ARBs was donated by the company for free.
Under the latest amendment to the lease contract with the ARBs, the beneficiaries are now paid more than double the industry average of P30,000 to P35,000 per hectare per year.
This is a windfall for the ARBs, as MEPI even paid three years advance rental—from 2020 to 2022.
Mercado also offered the same benefits and terms to the other beneficiaries who have not yet signed on to the lease contract. He said: “We would like everybody in the community to share in the fruits of the land without leaving anybody behind.”
The company expects the remaining 149 beneficiaries to sign the new lease deal. A total of 612 beneficiaries—or more than 80% of the majority—signed the fifth amendment to the Contract of Lease, where they declared that they ratify, defend and support the validity of the said agreement.
Aside from the company and the agrarian reform beneficiaries, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Coordinating Committees (PARCCOM) also participated in the negotiations.
Aside from rental income, MEPI also employs at least one member from the beneficiary family and provides them and their families with education, healthcare, life insurance, retirement benefits, and other financial assistance.
MEPI, which is based in Sto. Tomas in Davao del Norte, has been engaged in the business of operating a banana plantation since 1969, with total plantation area of close to 2,000 hectares. It is part of the Marsman Drysdale Group which operates various businesses in the Philippines since the 1920s.
In compliance with the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, MEPI opted to donate on September 26, 2000, about 800 hectares of land to its individual ARBs. The donation carried with it the condition that the company will be allowed to lease the land for 30 years, initially set at P4,500 per hectare per year. With this arrangement, the government did not have to pay MEPI just compensation amounting to more than P1 billion and freed the ARBs from paying a single centavo for their land.