Davao City eyes ban on aerial spraying by January 2007

The proposed ordinance is still on second reading. The city council will deliberate on the proposed legislation on August 8, based on the report of environment and natural resources committee chair Leo Avila, Bonguyan said.

The vice mayor said the city government earlier planned to initially ban aerial spraying for five years in 34,000 hectares of agricultural plantations considered “environmentally critical,”

Bonguyan said the city government has to act on this to protect the environment but that debates were expected because the same would mean higher production costs on the part of banana plantations.

Plantations may have to consider alternative means of controlling banana diseases without harming the environment, he said.

In the national production of fresh bananas, Southwestern Mindanao accounts for 41 percent or 1.75 million metric tons, 10 percent of which are produced in Davao City, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Earlier this year, city council debates on the ordinance, proposed since 2004, caught public attention when proponent Councilor Nenen Orcullo accused Councilor Ranulfo Cabling of speaking for the banana plantation companies.

Cabling, then chair of the committee on environment and natural resources, denied the accusation and blamed Orcullo for her alleged technical lapses that delayed deliberation on the proposed ordinance.

Last month, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte expressed his opposition to the widely criticized agricultural practice and contested the six-month period supposedly needed for the review and study of the proposed ordinance.

Duterte was quoted to have said he favors the immediate stoppage of aerial spraying, a pronouncement hailed by advocates of its banning in the city.

Majority of the key players of the banana industry here practiced aerial spraying to control fungi. But fungicides in the air “drift up to more than three kilometers from the treatment site thereby contaminating soil, open bodies of water, other animals and human environs in the process," according to Panaghoy sa Kinaiyahan, a group of environment advocates, in a position paper published in June.

The group lamented that the vegetative buffer zones between the plantations and schools, rivers, public roads and houses which are supposed to minimize the ill effects of the drift have not been properly complied with and that public information on the aerial spraying activity to warn people of its danger was inadequate.

"Meanwhile, communities surrounding the plantations complain of the nasty smell of the pesticides, itching, stinging in the eyes, suffocation, weakness, asthma, allergies and nausea as a result of the spray. These same people have nowhere to run, and are situated there because of the lack of economic choices. Aerial spraying then is tantamount to dousing them and their limited resources with poison," the group said.

The Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), a non-governmental organization working for watersheds in the city, noted in its position paper on January 25 that "studies in banana-producing countries show that of the fungicides applied through air, about 40 times during each cultivation cycle, 15 percent is lost to wind drift and falls outside the plantation, 40 percent ends up on soil rather than on the plants, and about 35 percent is washed off by rain totaling to a 90-percent loss." (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)