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Sunday, May 17, 2009

New banana federation formed to contest aerial spray ban

DAVAO CITY -- Reacting with indignation to the Department of Health (DOH) presentation of a study on "Health and Environment Assessment of Sitio Camocaan, Brgy. Aplaya, Hagonoy, Davao Del Sur" where the Local Health Support Division Director for Davao announced the Division's recommending a ban on aerial spraying on the basis of what local banana farmers see as "no significant findings" in the report, stakeholders in the banana industry in Mindanao federated and are calling for a major banana congress in June.

                Representing the "more than 5,000 small banana farmers and the estimated 500,000 Filipinos directly and indirectly reliant on the banana industry that has been at the forefront of Davao Region's development in the last 40 years," the Federation of Banana Industry Stakeholders of Mindanao (FBISM) will gather at least 2,000 delegates for the congress.

                In the DOH presentation, questions were raised regarding the veracity of initial reports sent in by Dr. Romeo Quijano in 2002/3 which had been the basis of the new assessment.

Croplife Executive Director Sim Cuyson underlined some facts that belie the veracity of the Quijano report, among them the Dulla twins, Marlon and Marvin, reported to have died due to aerial spray by the Quijano report, have been found alive and well in Davao; skin and other diseases also cited as caused by aerial spray have been denounced as false and acknowledged as having been with the patients prior to their residence in Camocaan; other deaths in the sitio are ascribed to aerial spray without substantial basis. 

 Saying the report was "full of flawed information and fabrications," Cuyson also pointed out that the $1.8 billion  annual sales level of the industry cited in the current assessment's introduction was wrong, and that $40 million annually was closer to the truth.  DOH Dr. Allan Dionisio, principal investigator, said that he will check their data.

Aerial spray effects on the water system is also belied by Davao City's recently having been certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having the best-quality drinking water among all cities in the world as cited in Davao City's own website.  This, after 40 years of aerial spraying.

                Dr. Dario Sabularse, Deputy Director of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), described the lightning-like spread of the air-borne banana fungal disease Sigatoka.  This is why aerial spraying has the best capability, the speed, to control it, he said.

  Sabularse also took exception to Local Health Support Division Chief Dr. Ma. Socorro D. De Gracia's announced recommendation to ban, stating that since FPA is the regulatory agency, the findings should first be submitted to them for verification and subsequent recommendation, if any.

                Dr. Lynn Panganiban, UP Consultant of Dr. Allan Dionisio in the current assessment, pointed out that their responsibility as medical doctors supersedes all economic considerations of plantations and farmers.  Dr. Panganiban was a former member of the FPA Pesticide Policy and Technical Advisory Committee (PPTAC).  She is also a member of Pesticide Alliance Network (PAN), an international advocacy against pesticide use of which Dr. Romeo Quijano is Regional Head.

                The new federation FBISM immediately held elections and released their list of officers: Faustino Salting, chairperson; Dr. Evelyn Floresta-Magno, vice chairperson;  Virgilio Tagnipez, Secretary;  Eric Sombito, treasurer;  Renante Bangoy, auditor: and. Francisco Ramos, Jr., public relations officer.

                 Juliet Ariete, a member of the new federation, said "it is about time the banana industry, the farmers, growers and all those who have a stake in the industry take up the cudgels for it.  We can no longer just sit back and let those who know nothing about our industry destroy it for no reason, or for 'no significant findings' or worse, fabrications and disinformation."

                The planned congress in June will include, aside from direct stakeholders in the banana industry, local government units and their leaders whose communities will be affected negatively by the move for an aerial spray ban.  Set to be staged at the UM Matina Gym in Davao City, the congress will cover new scientific updates on banana farming technology, new challenges the industry faces and how the industry stakeholders can act as one to protect the industry.     

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