Duterte to banana firms: don’t threaten us

If the firms leave, it may be difficult at first, he admitted “but we will survive eventually.”

“We have to protect first our people and environment,” he said.

Duterte was reacting to reports that banana firms were threatening to leave the city when the proposed law banning aerial spraying is passed.

The  Council was expected to vote today on the proposed ban but instead tasked an ad hoc committee to sum up all positions and recommendations. It was not the first time the Council postponed the vote. On August 8, the Council decided to convene as a committee of the whole on August 23 to deliberate on the issue.

Duterte said if the industry could show enough proof that aerial spraying does not harm health and environment, "then we could make them use aerial spraying". 

The city government is using the precautionary principle against the alleged ill effects of aerial spraying on the health of residents and the environment near agricultural plantations.

But the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) debunked the claims and said member-companies that use the method are responsible and have taken safety measures. In a statement published in local newspapers last week, it expressed confidence in the city council's deliberations.

City officials have confirmed strong lobbying from the banana industry not to pass the ordinance and instead bat for more regulation.

Many councilors received persistent calls from the banana industry, Councilor Leonardo Avila, environment committee chair, told MindaNews Monday.

The ad hoc body, composed of councilors Avila, Jesus Zozobrado, Nenita Orcullo, and Bonifacio Militar, was given 15 days after the receipt of the minutes to consolidate the proceedings of Avila's committee report on August 8, the positions from stakeholders during the August 23 special session, and the discussions of the session today.

Charito Santos, chief of the resolutions, ordinance and agenda division of the city council said it might take them at least a week to work on the minutes.  

The councilors expected more inputs in today's session from Department of Health regional director Paulyn Russel Ubial. Ubial, who sent a representative to make a presentation on August 23.

Some councilors counted on Ubial's presentation for official findings on the alleged ill effects of aerial spraying on health.   Rex Labadia, from the DOH's environmental health program told the city council today they could not conclusively say aerial spraying is harmful in the absence of a DOH study.

Supporters of the ban marched to City Hall after the session to express dismay over the delay of the approval.

But Duterte said he would not be moved by protesters.

“As much as we want this ordinance passed, we still respect the independence of the city council,” he said. He said he will listen only to the city council. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)