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Panabo says yes to aerial spraying

PANABO City (MindaNews ) – While Davao City is against aerial spraying, with its ordinance banning it now hanging at the Supreme Court, banana growers and exporters in this city staged a march and rally Wednesday to push for its use despite claims by opponents that it is hazardous to people’s health.

For Councilor Reynante Bangoy, who chairs the city council’s committee on agriculture, the move was to show support for the city’s banana industry, which is 70 percent of Panabo’s agricultural industry.

He said they have been asking for “affordable alternatives” from proponents of the ban, “but so far there have been none.”

Around 1,000 people – including employees and officials of banana growing companies, as well as agrarian reform beneficiaries who are members of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters – joined the rally to back the city’s support for aerial spraying.

The practice – a hot issue in cities hosting banana plantations like Panabo and Davao – makes use of small aircraft to spray fungicide on vast banana plantations.

Opponents have lobbied to ban the practice all throughout the country, a move that started in Davao City in 2007.

The Mamamayang Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS), citing a study by the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT), said that aerial spraying is dangerous to humans.

The MAAS criticized Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for the lack of official position on the part of the Department of Agriculture.

MAAS president Dagohoy Magaway has lauded actions by Akbayan partylist Rep. Barry Gutierrez, who reportedly directed the DA issue a ban during a budget hearing at the House of Representatives last month.

Bangoy, on the other hand, said that the fungicides being used by aerial spraying aircraft are registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority.

He pointed out that a ban would affect the city’s banana industry, which has been exporting to Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, United States, and the Middle East.

Wednesday’s rally was already on its fourth year, always scheduled on Sept. 11.

Supporters of aerial spray dubbed the protest “Save Our Sagingan,” or SOS to stress the urgency to continue with the practice or the demise of the area’s banana industry.

PBGEA executive assistant said that the association accounts for 53,000 hectares of banana plantations, 36,508 of which in Region XI alone.

Romeo Manuel, chairman of the Central TADECO Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multipurpose Cooperative (CTARBEMPCO), in his defense of aerial spraying, said that the proposed alternatives are simply too expensive for the industry.

“If the practice gets banned, we will have to resort to manual spraying with machines like boom sprays,” he said.

Manuel, in stressing the safety of aerial spray, said he has been growing bananas for 31 years proves and “I’m still alive.”

“Even insects are not affected by the fungicide as it targets a specific organism,” he pointed out.

According to data from PBGEA, banana exports in 2012 have dwindled to 1.87 metric tons compared to 2.05 metric tons the year before.

Bangoy said that the recent typhoons that hit the region have affected the industry, too.

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