Banana firms: please don?t ban aerial spraying

The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association also denied it threatened to leave if the ban on aerial spraying were approved.

"We are staying here. We just can't pack things up. We have a commitment here," Noel Venus, PBGEA’s Task Force on Environment chair told reporters in a press conference Wednesday.  

"If we have weaknesses, we are open to improve but please don't put us in an outright position, he said at the PBGEA-organized media familiarization tour to banana plantations.

Venus said they just can't leave because they have invested millions of pesos on infrastructure and have contracted growers in the city.  

He told MindaNews the proposed ban will impact on the market of Philippine bananas as it will “create a perception of our bananas in the export market.

Those who support the moves to ban aerial spraying allege that it causes health and environment hazards.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte expressed hope for a "happy compromise,” but noted the ban will be imposed starting 2007 as a precautionary measure.

The PBGEA said the ban will threaten the industry, especially with the comeback of the Latin American banana industry and the emergence of the China and Vietnam markets.

Venus said the industry's top markets are first world countries that impose established standards in importing bananas. He said their conformity with standards could be affected if something goes wrong along the 11-step banana trade flow from plant care to customer satisfaction.    

Venus said the alleged hazards caused by aerial spraying have yet to be proven.

At the familiarization tour, the PBGEA gathered some 20 banana growers in a plantation in Tamayong, Calinan district for a forum with reporters.

The growers denied allegations about illnesses caused by aerial spraying. Ban supporters, they said, are “polluting the minds” of city officials about their situation.

The growers said they should not be deprived of better lives and banning aerial spraying could lead to that.

Banning aerial spraying could also cause failure of  local bananas to pass export standards, they said.

Venus said aerial spraying is cost-effective, fast and practical. He said it is also efficient in the prevention of sigatoka fungi.  

Ban supporters cite 20 reasons in support of their stand, among them, drift of spray and the use of fungicides already banned in other countries. Aerial spraying is banned in neighboring Bukidnon province and also in countries like Denmark, Estonia, Italy.

But the PBGEA asked: "What is going to be removed, the airplane, the fungicides or the banana plantation?”

Both the city government and the banana industry have committed to sit down together and work to strike a "happy compromise" on the issue.  

But the city government, invoking the precautionary principle, wants to do it after the ban is imposed. Duterte also demanded proof from the banana industry that aerial spraying does not cause the hazards.

The banana industry on the other hand also wants allegations of  ban supporters to be substantiated with medical records "not just psychological and emotional tactics," Venus said.          

PBGEA pledged to strengthen mitigating measures to ensure the protection of people's health and the environment. Venus cited improving the multipartite monitoring team (MMT), which he said, is functional.   

Although some plantations do not have MMTs, that is what is supposed to be done, said Engr. Rufino Bandialan, chief of the environmental impact assessment of the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR.   (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)