Hearings on aerial spray ban start this week

The Regional Trial Court will start hearing this week a petition for preliminary injunction filed by the banana industry against the City Government of Davao to block the implementation of the ordinance banning the use of aerial spray in plantations following the collapse of talks on settlement.

A full-blown court battle looms after a court-initiated settlement attempt barely a month ago, failed, casting uncertainties over the fate of this city's latest landmark pro-environment legislation.

Local legislators unanimously approved the ordinance on March 23 and the city government is set to enforce it on June 23, the end of a three-month ?phase-out period.

RTC Branch 17 Judge Renato Fuentes scheduled marathon hearings Monday until Thursday this week for the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) to justify the issuance of a preliminary injunction.

The court will also hear the city government's defense on the merits of the ordinance and why the banana industry's appeal for preliminary injunction must be junked.

PBGEA has argued the phase-out period does not give ample time for shifting from using airplanes to trucks in spraying banana plantations.

But the city government has remained firm on its stance that the ordinance is no longer negotiable.

City Administrator Wendel Avisado in an earlier interview told MindaNews the city government entertained no plans of backing out of the implementation. Echoing the line of the City Legal Office, he said a legal battle is the better way to settle the issue.

He said the bottomline is whether or not the enactment of the ordinance is constitutional.

PBGEA in earlier pronouncements branded the ordinance as oppressive and without due basis and said it could lead to the collapse of the banana industry in the city.

The city government, however, insisted that the legislation is within the bounds of the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160).

Before PBGEA filed the case, its president, Stephen Antig, said they did not want to resort to legal battle and that they expected the city government to grant an extension of the phase-out period. But the latter refused to budge despite efforts for an amicable settlement.

PBGEA filed the appeal for injunction after they failed to stop Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's approval of the ordinance despite the intervention of Agricuture Secretary Arthur Yap.

Environmentalists hit PBGEA's court action accusing the industry of alleged arrogance and inability to respect the city government's decision "over a policy that involved lives of the people and the environment.

In a press release on May 25, pro-ban advocate Interface Development Interventions Inc. alleged that bringing the issue to court is PBGEA's way of harassing the authorities and the people who supported the banning of aerial spraying.

Dagohoy Magaway, of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying which backed IDIS, told MindaNews Saturday they are awaiting the court's decision on their application as a third party intervener in the proceedings of the case.

In Mindanao, Davao City is only the second local government after Bukidnon which has banned aerial spraying.

At least 76 percent of the country's 4.28 million metric tons banana output  in 2004 came from Mindanao, 41 percent of which came from Southeastern Mindanao region, where Davao City is.

Most of the banana plantations, however, are in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley. Davao del Sur also has but fewer than those in the two provinces. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)