Banana growers want to meet Sec. Lopez amid aerial spraying ban issue

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 Aug) – The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) has expressed desire to meet Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to inform her of the best practices of the big banana companies amid threats that she will ban aerial spraying if she finds out it causes suffering to the communities near plantations.

PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig said in an interview Tuesday that they are only waiting for the response of the environment chief on the letter he sent to her last week.

“I wrote her a letter requesting for an audience to present to Lopez what we are doing and how we are doing it,” he said.

If Lopez’s time permits, he said they will tour her to one of the banana plantations in Mindanao to show her the best practices of PBGEA members, especially on aerial spraying.

Antig noted that some advocates are claiming that aerial spraying brings environmental and health hazards to nearby communities.

He explained that agricultural aircrafts that large banana companies are utilizing are equipped with global positioning system (GPS) that allows them to spray on targeted areas and eliminate risk of drifting away to nearby communities.

Antig said banana companies are spending so much on aerial spraying that they could not afford to waste it. Each aircraft can cover 200 hectares an hour as compared to drone that covers only 2.2 hectares an hour.

“Our planes are equipped with GPS, a mechanism that will open and shut off when near the buffer zones,” he said.

The PBGEA head said the banana industry has been operating in Mindanao for 50 years but no clear reports of deaths were recorded due to aerial spraying. “Contrary to reports that a lot of people die, they could not provide names,” he said of the industry’s critics.

“We’ve been asking the same question to the Department of Health, and a lot of non-government organizations (NGOs). They cannot come up with names,” he said.

Antig said he wondered why the industry has become the subject criticism as compared to other crops that use more chemicals.

“Why zero in on bananas? We contribute to the biggest revenues of Mindanao in terms of employment,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)