Agri’s Yap meets with banana growers

Noel Provido, DA regional office information officer, said the meeting will be on Friday. The meeting comes barely a month after the City Council unanimously passed the ordinance banning aerial spraying.

The ordinance, approved on January 23, also gave the banana industry three months to phase out aerial spraying and shift to ground spraying.

The PBGEA appealed for reconsideration. In a letter to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte a day before the final reading of the ordinance, PBGEA president Stephen Antig said they agreed with the "Jacinto report" which calls for strict regulation, not banning. PBGEA also sought a 25-year phase out period.

Councilor Leonardo Avila III, environment committee chair, said Tuesday the ordinance has not been transmitted to the mayor since its approval.

Avila said there are two possible outcomes of  PBGEA's "appeal for reconsideration" if it is granted: a city council recall or Duterte's veto.  He said a city council recall is possible if the mayor would request it.

Vice Mayor Luis Bonguyan told ABS-CBN radio Tuesday some members of the city council are pushing for a recall following PBGEA's appeal.

He admitted initial discussions were already made on the proposal.  Bonguyan also admitted that some councilors might change side due to possible withdrawal of support in the May elections, by barangay captains who oppose the ban.

Bonguyan said they have not decided on the recall. But he said if they so decide, they also have to agree to pass it unanimously.  

Avila, however, told MindaNews it would be awkward for the city council to recall something they had earlier agreed upon unanimously.

On Monday, Avila said Yap's possible intervention could be tantamount to interference in local governance. "Only a compelling reason can make the city council recall the ordinance," he said.  

Avila said he would come and listen if Yap and PBGEA would ask the city council for a dialogue. "But they should never dictate on us," he said.   

Banana is among DA's priority crops in Mindanao. In 2004, Mindanao produced around 76 percent or 4.28 million metric tons of the total Philippine production, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics. Southeastern Mindanao, where Davao is, produced about 41 percent of that output.

Along with coconut, coffee, mango, poultry, tilapia, rubber, and oil palm, DA considers banana as one of its commodity champions "toward market competitiveness in order to gain recognition in the global market".

The National Economic Development Authority report for Southeastern Mindanao cited downsides of the ban on aerial spraying such as additional costs for reorientation or construction of access roads and cable lines, in the plantations

"Aside from capital expenditure requirements for the purchase of equipment and implementation of related activities, banning aerial spraying will also affect the quality of export bananas and the perception toward Philippine bananas in the world market," the report said.

NEDA said the shift would also lead to a reduction in the size of plantations, dependence on cheaper manpower, and to lesser revenue to the city government.

The Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (Idis) in a statement Tuesday called on members of the city council "not to be swayed by the economic arguments and other forms of pressures employed by those who are against the banning of aerial spraying".

IDIS said the decision to ban was not an overnight decision, but one that "went through a process that exhausted all the needed and significant arguments.” (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)