KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/14 July) — The city government joined calls on Tuesday for the immediate banning of aerial spraying activities in agricultural plantations in parts of South Cotabato.
City Mayor Peter Miguel said he is opposing the continuing use of the aerial spraying method by foreign-backed banana firm Sumifru Philippines Corporation in its plantations in the municipalities of Surallah and T’boli towns in South Cotabato due to the risks that they pose to human health and the environment.
He said various studies had shown that the spraying of chemicals like pesticides using airplanes is hazardous as it might contaminate the local environment.
“I’m personally against aerial spraying. I’m a doctor so I know the risks we’re facing with that practice,” he told reporters.
Citing his studies, the mayor said there are a number of available options that companies may adopt when spraying chemicals in their plantations aside from aerial spraying.
He noted the case of fruit giant Dole Philippines Inc. (Dolefil) based in Polomolok town in South Cotabato that had shunned using the aerial spraying method in its operations.
The company has been instead using high-powered sprinklers or boom sprinklers in its spraying activities, he said.
Miguel said other local agricultural companies, like Sumifru, should adopt Dolefil’s practice and invest in high-powered sprinklers.
“They’re earning billions of pesos so they should properly invest into these equipment and protect our people and the environment in the process,” he said.
“We should focus on the greater good. It’s not proper to compromise the health and well-being of our people in the name of business and profits,” the mayor stressed.
Miguel clarified that he is not against the operations of Sumifru and other banana plantations in the province.
“What we are after is the welfare of our people. Our banana companies can help us with this by pursuing good business practices and good farming practices,” he said.
South Cotabato board member Romulo Solivio earlier filed a proposed ordinance that seeks the banning of aerial spraying activities by agricultural companies in any part of the province.
The measure has remained pending at the provincial board’s committee level.
A group of residents in Surallah town and the neighboring areas had been protesting the aerial spraying activities of Sumifru in several barangays in the area.
On Monday, the group resumed their protest actions, which started last year, by barricading anew the Surallah airport and preventing Sumifru’s spray plane from taking off.
The company, which operates banana plantations in Surallah and T’boli towns, had been using the airport as base of its aerial spraying operations.
Omar Azarcon, coordinator of the protest action, said they launched the mobilization to pressure local government leaders to decisively put a stop to the aerial spraying activities of Sumifru.
He claimed that they have documented three deaths and numerous cases of various illnesses that were directly caused by the aerial spraying activities.
Azarcon said the three fatalities came from communities situated near the banana plantations of Sumifru in T’boli town.
He said they found a significant number of residents who have been suffering from various illnesses like asthma and contact dermatitis in the affected communities.
Surallah Mayor Antonio Bendita confirmed the protest actions at the airport and noted that local government could not stop it as the facility is under the jurisdiction and control of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
The mayor said he advised the company to just file the necessary charges in case of damages caused by the protests on its operations. (MindaNews)