By: Eina Izabela Zaide Concepcion
Prior to our immersion in Barangay Gugo, Bataan, my team of close knit friends had high hopes of finding out information about that mysterious Thai aquafeeds company Charoen Pokphand Foods Corporation, in central Luzon. Prior to our trip we tried to contact their main office in metro manila to set an appointment with their Bataan factory to no avail. The trip was meant for us to be able to get an objective outlook as to what the communities and local government unit thought about the corporation and its operations, and we were also hoping to get inside the factory itself and to talk to the people working there. With the latter we were only optimistic, and for the two former were forewarned about the sensitivities that would be coming our way.
Passing by the Charoen Pokphand factory which was near the community we were seeing, we were shunned by the security guard, claiming that there were no workers that day and there were no operations, so by standard protocol we were not allowed to enter the factory or even to talk to anyone inside about it. Given this, we the simply asked if we could take a picture of the sign, and even that wasn’t allowed. He was just doing his job, but this made us wonder what secrets could be hidden in this 50 hectares factory.
Upon listening from the bits and pieces we got from the interviews and opinions of the different residents and local government officials of the Barangay Gugo, we were able to consolidate a table of the negative and positive externalities associated with the operations of this factory. Almost every one complained about the foul fish paste like odors coming from the factory. Many mothers such as grocery owner Aling Nora and former Kagawad Rose, as well as Kapitan Ompong also mentioned the many illnesses brought by the foul odors such as asthma attacks, diarrhea, migraine, and rashes. A conflicting view was that of present Kapitan Jaime, the only government official aside from the Mayora who has said to have been in the factory. He said that the foul odors could not be harmful because they were all organic. The fumes coming out of the factory has no chemicals infused in them. Another negative externality coming from the factory was also the shortage of the underground water supply. The common folk would them complain about how their deep wells wouldn’t work because the factory with their machine operated water pumping systems would seep out all the water. This was addressed by a mechanical pumping system donated to the barangay by the factory last November. The pump would supply for at most 25 houses though at present is still unoperational due the absence of a power source.
For the positive externalities, many people from the community mentioned employment opportunities. However some would critique that these were very limited such that only those with connections in the local government would be able to get jobs. Another benefit was the real-estate tax. However, there were misconceptions as to the amount, former Kapitan Ompong mentioned that these real estate taxes were worth 8 Million PhP, while current Kaptian Jamie, said these were worth only PhP 400,000.
At our final interview, Nanay Nenet former treasurer of the municipality, and current member of the Charoen Pokphand monitoring board mentioned, “ Nagpapasalamat sa mga inyo dahil nakikita ng barangay me mga interasdong grupo, hindi kami nag-iisa, at unti-unti medyo nakakakurot-kurot tayo, okay na lang ung kaunting pakurot-kurot, kasi mahirap pa ung bibiglain mo tapos bigla kang babawi..” Even if our stay was short it remained relevant due to fact that hat the local communities were given an outlet to share their concerns and problems and to expose the realities of these issues surmounted by the high walls of multinational companies. Much is still unknown about the dark secrets hiding underneath the red tape of bilateral international trade agreements. Ongoing is the fight for transparency, morality, sovereignty, equity and propriety. Ongoing is the fight for social justice.