DAVAO CITY (MAAS/19 Feb) – MAAS members slammed President Arroyo’s plan to create an independent task force to evaluate claims whether aerial spray should be banned or not.
Liezl Bacalso, a MAAS member from Sirib in Calinan District, questioned the logic behind the decision since there were already previous studies conducted by government experts on the negative effects caused by the aerial spray on the lives of the people living near banana plantations. “Bakit kailangan pa ng experts from other countries? Bakit kailangan pa ng studies , eh meron na ang DOH at DA; may recommendation na sila. Bakit hindi ito sundin?”, (Why is there a need for experts from other countries when the DOH and DA experts have already made their recommendations? Why are these not being followed?), she asked.
Bacalso was reacting to comments made by President Arroyo during her visit in Davao for the Agribusiness Super Region last Tuesday. When asked about the aerial spray issue, the President disclosed that she instructed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jess Dureza to head the task force to look into the agricultural practices in other countries to resolve the issue on whether to ban aerial spray or not.
MAAS members do not agree with the decision. Dagohoy Magaway, MAAS member from Brgy Balengaeng in Tugbok District pointed out that the experiences in other countries are not necessarily applicable in the Philippine context.
Crispin Alcomendras, MAAS member from Wangan in Calinan district agreed with Magaway. “ Maski ug sundon ang mga good practices sa ubang nasud, wala man pud mu-enforce ani diri. Kinsa man ang magmonitor? Magpabilin gihapon na sa papel.”, (Even if the international good practices are followed here, there is no competent body to monitor the practices. These guidelines will just remain in writing.), he said. “Sama sa multipartite monitoring team or MMT nga gihimong requirement lang sa papel pero wala gyud natuman ang function niya. Walay miting miting,” (For example, the Multipartite Monitoring Team which is a requirement but is not being followed. There are no regular meetings.), he revealed.
He knows this firsthand since he also acts as barangay kagawad for Wangan. “Ako kagawad man gyud nga murepresent sa barangay sa MMT, pero wala gyud naga meeting. Sa papel lang naay MMT aron makapasa kuno sa requirement ,” (I am a councilor , representing my barangay but I have yet to attend any MMT meeting. This is only good on paper just to pass the requirements.”), he added.
Support groups nationwide have also reacted to the latest attempt by the Arroyo government to resolve the issue of the aerial spray ban. Atty. Mon Salas of the alternative law group SALIGAN said that the government should first implement the banning aerial spraying recommendation made by its own agencies. “The government should heed its own agencies in their recommendation to ban aerial spraying first. A task force can be formed after a ban order has been made. This is affirmed by DA, DOH and even CHR ,which is a constitutional body”, he said.
Dr. Romeo Quijano, president of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Philippines, sees this latest move as an accommodation by the government to the interests of banana corporations. “Clearly, this favors the companies. GMA’s blatant disregard of the recommendations of the government agencies should not tolerated by anyone”, he said.
The highly important DOH study that became the basis for the government agencies recommendation to ban aerial spraying as an agricultural practice was originally prompted by complaints from Sitio Camocaan residents in Guihing, Davao del Sur who sought assistance of Dr. Quijano in the late 90s who then conducted an investigation in the village.
Late last year, the MAAS and its network of supporters were in Manila to lobby for the issuance of an Executive Order banning aerial spray following the recommendations of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health.
Philippine and Austrian Catholic bishops who supported MAAS wrote a letter to PGMA saying that aerial spraying is an immoral practice that infringes upon human health and dignity. (MAAS)