Duterte signs aerial spray ban amid DA chief?s admonition

Duterte said he signed the ordinance Thursday, a day ahead of his meeting with Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap who came to intercede in behalf of the banana industry. But he said it was not meant to preempt Yap’s personal intercession on behalf of the growers and multinational corporations.


Duterte's decision rebuffed allegations he would veto the ordinance over Yap's intervention and an appeal for reconsideration from the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA).


Both leaders acknowledged each other's side on the issue, but Yap said he expected a "status quo" in the implementation pending a proposed win-win formula that would be offered by PBGEA.


Duterte said he seriously doubted a "status quo" to happen.  He said he could not suspend the implementation of the law that he only signed recently. He said he has promised the councilors in an earlier meeting that he would sign it


Duterte said that they would proceed with the ordinance by publishing the ordinance soonest. After publication, he said the industry has three months to phase out aerial spraying as the ordinance has directed.


"It will be published in 15 days, then the ordinance becomes a law and that's it," he said and added that the industry “could think of so many remedies for a future compromise”.


He said there was nothing he could do about it for now and that a "happy compromise could come in the future, not now”.


"My stand is not against banana growers. My stand is to protect the health of the people," he said.  "We might have a happy compromise in the future," he stressed.


Yap, whose interview came before Duterte's, said the banana exporters and Department of Agriculture, would take whatever measures allowed them by law to come up with a win-win solution. He said the DA would facilitate the process (Read related story).   


Robert Chio, DA regional director, said it was Yap who called on PBGEA to see how the department could help in the local situation.


Yap met with PBGEA officials before meeting Duterte. While Yap was with Duterte, PBGEA reportedly told reporters they would respect the mayor's decision.


The mayor assured though, that the law would not dislocate workers and led to the collapse of the industry.


How he would do that he did not specify.  He said the city government would have to let the law take its normal course. "It has something to do with the wisdom of how the chemical is being used," he said.


"If only this is a law that is contrary to public morals I would have vetoed it. But this is about the health of the people.


Duterte said a win-win solution could be on doing away with marginal use of land and in using boom spray. "But banana growers cannot insist on changing the law," he said.


He said he recognized the income losses it would mean to the banana industry and the city. "But that's the figures. We are talking about health here," he said.


Yap on the other hand, warned that banning aerial spraying could bring about P3.5 billion losses and would lay off thousands of workers in southeastern Mindanao's banana industry. The region produces 41 percent the country's total banana output.   


Duterte said Yap's questioning the ordinance was part of his job to promote agri-business but he said he showed Yap of the industry's violations like the absence of buffer zones when he toured him in a chopper over the city's banana plantations.


He said it was not only non-government organizations that made noise on the violations but the residents, too. "The margin of safety for the health of the people was ignored that's why there was agitation," he said he told Yap.


Duterte said he told Yap he cannot attribute bad faith to the councilors who unanimously voted for the ordinance' approval on January 23. "That's what they got from the field," he said.