Women-farmers take witness stand for spray ban

Rosita Bacalso, 54, and Virginia Cataag, 52, both from Sirib village in Calinan district, will take the witness stand Friday to testify on behalf of the 12-member intervenors allowed by the Regional Trial Court to be represented in the trial over the temporary injunction case filed by the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association.

Lawyer Reymund Salas, counsel of the intervenors, will present them in the marathon hearing conducted by RTC 17 Judge Renato Fuentes since last week to "expedite" what he called as a "high-profile" case for the involvement of many sectors in the community.

Sirib village in Davao's upland Calinan district is one of the affected areas of aerial spraying, according to the pro-ban group Interface Development Initiatives (IDIS). Villagers reportedly noticed normalcy of productivity of their crops when aerial spraying was stopped there a year ago.

The two witnesses were expected to present evidence of effects of aerial spraying to their health, crops, and the quality of water.

Another lady farmer from Kapalong town in Davao del Norte, where banana plantations are wider, joined a retired pilot Wednesday in testifying for the city government.

Col. Napoleon Escolano Concepcion, a retired commercial airline pilot who was involved with waste management and pollution control, testified that even the Deferential Global Positioning System-equipped airplanes, bragged by the banana industry as a precise tool for aerial spraying, does not stop drift from reaching "non-target areas".

He told the court there is no machine or equipment which can control the speed or flow of any chemicals or liquids released by any airplane in flight.

Residents living near banana plantations claim chemicals brought by drifts caused health and environmental hazards.

The city government started presenting evidence Tuesday in its defense why the writ for temporary injunction should not be issued to block the implementation of the ordinance.

Last week, PBGEA presented six witnesses. The businessmen claimed the city passed the ordinance with no sufficient basis.

The trial came in the run-up to the implementation of the ban on June 22, three months after it was passed by the city council and approved as ordinance by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Lawyers said if all the parties would rest the case and will not petition more witnesses, the judge would be given 60 days to decide.

The DILG has considered the filing of the case in court as the best way to go out of the tug-of-war between the city government and the banana industry.