GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 April) — The provincial government of South Cotabato will commission an in-depth study to determine the safety of the continuing use of the aerial spraying method in the application of pesticides by agricultural plantations operating in the province.
South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said they are set to create a technical working group (TWG) that will spearhead a study on the aerial spraying of pesticides in banana plantations in T’boli, Surallah and Tampakan towns.
She said the study will focus on verifying the safety and the reported negative impact to human health and the environment of the aerial spraying of pesticides and other chemicals.
“The result of the study will be our basis in deciding later on whether or not we should ban aerial spraying of pesticides in the province,” she said.
Fuentes said she has initially tasked the Provincial Development Council (PDC) to set up the TWG, which will be composed of council members and representatives of concerned government and nongovernment agencies.
She has instructed a PDC technical team to work with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region in the creation of the TWG and the conduct of the study.
The PDC, which is headed by the governor, is the province’s highest development policymaking body.
It is composed of top provincial officials, mayors of the province’s 10 towns and lone city as well as representatives of accredited non-government and people’s organizations in the province.
An environment group earlier urged the provincial government to ban the aerial spraying of pesticides in the province due to their supposed health hazards.
Fr. Monico Puerto, lead convenor of the People’s Alliance in Protection of Environment and Health Against Toxic and Chemical, said they have documented cases of illnesses among residents settled near banana plantations in T’boli reportedly due to the persistent aerial spraying of pesticides in the area.
He specifically cited the case of a public school teacher who suffered problems with her eyesight after allegedly being hit by chemicals sprayed by an airplane while she was walking towards their school, which is located near a banana plantation.
Aside from the teacher, he said a number of residents suffered from various illnesses in the past years due to the effects of the aerial spraying of pesticides in their areas.
T’boli town hosts thousands of hectares of banana plantations of Sumifru Philippines Corp., which is a subsidiary of Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. The company also operates banana plantations in Surallah town.
Fruit firm Global Fruits Corporation/Lapanday Diversified Products maintains banana plantations in portions of Tampakan town.
Fuentes said the planned study will cover safety assessments on the manual and aerial spraying methods of pesticides, specifically fungicides in the case of the banana plantations in the area.
“We will also consider the fact that our banana industry also needs to be competitive in the process,” she said.
In the case of T’boli, the governor said they will look into the possible hazards of the aerial spraying activities to the town’s water resources.
T’boli, which is part of the 102,350-hectare Allah Valley Protected Landscape, hosts the headwaters and watershed areas of major rivers and streams traversing the province and nearby areas.
These include the Allah River, which is considered as the province’s biggest waterway and the main irrigation source of farmlands in the area. (MindaNews)