Probers push for ?strict regulations? on aerial spraying in Davao

The team recommended that banana firms must strictly follow health and safety regulations in the conduct of aerial spraying. Duterte has earlier described the reports as "severely restrictive bordering on almost banning aerial spraying."


Team leader Mario Luis Jacinto said Wednesday the report, sent by the Office of the City Mayor to the City Council on December 4, was made in consultation with the stakeholders of the banana industry.


All areas subject for spraying must be identified using the global positioning system (GPS). Copies of the GPS map should be provided to the Office of the City Mayor, the study recommended.


GPS equipment and automatic shut on and off mechanism, the report recommended, should also be installed in the aircrafts used to spray. Pilots, too, should be duly licensed by the Air Transportation Office and should be accredited by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority.


The report also recommended that spraying should be done only when temperature is from 22 to 28 degrees Celsius with wind velocity at not more than five miles per hour.


According to the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), it is part of their standard operating procedure to stop spraying when wind speed is 4.8 kph and when temperature reaches 28 Celsius.


The report also recommended that 24 hours before spraying, the firms should write authorities about the schedule. Sirens, or other warning devices, should be sounded off at least 30 minutes before the aerial spraying.


The team has pushed for banning the method in all new areas that are not compact and less than 50 hectares, the implementation of a 50-meter buffer zone in areas where there are communities, houses, major rivers, and city and national roads.


Buffer area in communities should be about fifty meters from the identified boundary of residential lots or public assembly areas.


Permanent natural cover such as trees should also be planted not less than five meters wide from the boundary. But the report cited that crops could be grown in the buffer area, but chemical application should be limited only to manual or boom spray.


The study showed that that there is no "conclusive scientific basis" to ban aerial spraying "at this time". It also found out that there is not enough basis that the medical cases which pro-ban groups presented as evidence in calling for a ban invoking precautionary measures are caused by aerial spray drifts.


But the complaint that spray drifts occur is a legitimate concern and "is not without basis", Jacinto said


The report cited that if in case aerial spraying would be banned, the city government should set a phase out period for the construction of roads to be used in boom or manual spraying.


The report also said that banana firms should be "enjoined" to provide potable water from deep wells to nearby communities so people will not drink rainwater from rooftops, which could be contaminated.


To protect from spray drifts, the report pushed for the planting of forest trees or bamboo, not coconut, around communities and waterways. Pro-ban groups reported that drift chemicals from aerial spraying destroy coconut trees around plantations.


Entry point and regular medical examination for employees, laborers, packers, and field workers should also be conducted, including laboratory testing for CBC, chest X-ray, and cholinesterase test.


The investigators also pushed for the use of personal protective equipment by those doing the aerial spraying and other workers who may be affected.


Avila added that regular tests of water quality should also be conducted.


Jacinto stressed it was an independent study and "definitely not influenced" by either parties even if they have consulted all stakeholders. He said, however, unlike very scientific researches that employ intensive processes, the study was done on the basis of available data.


He said it is now up to the city council how they will use the results of the study. Councilor Leonardo Avila III, who chairs the council's committee on environment and natural resources, said the report was not yet officially endorsed to his committee.


Avila told reporters Thursday the city council's deliberation on the proposed banning ordinance may have to go back to committee level to consider the report and may spill over to January next year.


He said the council will look at the possibility of a gradual ban. "What we think is doable, that is what we have to do immediately," he added.