Banana growers: removal of biosecurity measures in Davao Norte may worsen spread of fusarium wilt

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 Oct) – The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) expressed fears that the planned removal of the biosecurity installations along the farm roads of the banana plantations operated by Floirendo-owned Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (TADECO) will worsen the fusarium wilt infestation in the province.

PBGEA executive director Stephen Antig said on Tuesday that he was not aware whether the provincial government of Davao del Norte has already set schedules on the removal of that biosecurity installations, but the 72-hour temporary restraining order issued by the Panabo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) last October 9, 2019, in favor of TADECO had long expired.

“I do not know about the schedules. My fears are that it will possibly spread the fusarium infestations,” he said.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “fusarium wilt disease has been a major constraint to banana production for more than a century… It is one of the most destructive diseases of banana worldwide.”

The provincial government allegedly wanted to temporarily remove biosecurity features such as entry barriers that guide the public to go through “tire dips” and insecticide sprays for passing vehicles and “footbaths” for pedestrians entering the plantation, as well as the gates to the plantation managed by TADECO in Barangay Tanglaw in the municipality of Dujali; El Canto Road in Barangay Balagunan in Sto. Tomas; and Bugtong Lubi Road in Barangay Bobongon, also in Sto. Tomas in Davao del Norte.

In a press release issued Tuesday, PBGEA said the dreaded fusarium wilt has already affected 2,402 hectares of banana plantations in Barangays Kimamon, La Libertad, Salvacion, Talomo, Lungaog, Casig-ang, Balagunan, Tibal-og, and Kinamayan in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte where no biosecurity measures are in place.

Instead of risking the banana industry, Antig urged provincial and local governments to help promote the industry since the banana companies provide revenues in the form of taxes to the government.

“Their constituents are largely dependent on the banana industry for their livelihood. They should help the banana growers, and not interfere in their operations,” Antig said.

The release added that Davao del Norte province had been placed under quarantine due to fusarium wilt on the strength of Special Quarantine Order 01-2012 of the Bureau of Plant Industry and, as such, “banana plantations are obliged to implement quarantine and border control measures such as checkpoints and installation of wheel and foot baths.”

It said Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Ano made a clarification on Memorandum Circular 121-2019 that it was intended for “road clearing of public roads and not for purposes other than intended, including demolishing structures in private lots without notice and just compensation.”

It added that the Bureau of Corrections’ Davao Penal Colony, the owner of the contested land which is being planted to Cavendish bananas by TADECO under a joint-venture agreement, said it had sent a letter to the provincial government explaining that the farm roads that are subjected to road clearing are privately owned. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)

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