On August 13 a vehicle belonging to Alter Trade Corp. in the Philippines was torched by three members of the New People’s Army of the Communist Party, according to a declaration made by a representative of Akbayan, another Philippine left-wing party. Speaking at the House of Representatives, Akbayan representative Loretta Ann Rosales accused the NPA of imposing “revolutionary taxes” and of carrying out the attack after the export company repeatedly refused to shell out 30 million pesos.
Alter Trade is a cooperative based in Bacolod City in Negros, established in 1987 out of the “hunger epidemic” which stuck Negros in the 1980s when sugar prices on the world market plummeted, driving thousands of farmers to poverty. With the help of Japanese NGOs and consumer groups Alter Trade was formed. Its aim is to enable farmers to compete with powerful landowners by supplying them with tools and training and helping them establish a direct commerce network. The intimidatory aggression has brought the company’s operation to a standstill in the Occidental Province of Negros, as the truck was the only means of collecting bananas from farmers in the area.
Today the cooperative exports its environmentally sustainable products (mainly sugar and bananas) to Japan, Switzerland, Austria, France, Malaysia and Korea and involves 5,000 producers and employees. Two food communities it works with, Balangon banana producers and Negros Island sugar producers, will participate in Terra Madre, world meeting of food communities held in Turin, October 26-30, 2006.