Group warns of return of aerial spraying in North Cotabato

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Banana plantations in North Cotabato province are lobbying for the lifting of the ban on aerial spraying, according to Go Organic Mindanao (GOM), an island-wide network of organic farming practitioners and advocates.

“We’ve received reports from the field that plantation companies are campaigning for an amendment of the Provincial Environment Code to allow the return of aerial spraying in North Cotabato,” said GOM Secretariat Chinkie Pelino.

Section 78 of the Provincial Environment Code of Cotabato expressly states that  “aerial spraying in croplands and plantations is prohibited.”

The OND-HESED Foundation in Marbel, which has been supporting the local anti-aerial spraying campaign in T’boli, South Cotabato, urged the local government to stand firm on the issue.

“Instead of lifting the ban, they should strictly enforce it. Exposure to aerial spraying means the gradual death of every human and living organism. Every minute that a droplet stays on unprotected flesh is a minute ticking towards death,” said OND-HESED Executive Director Sr. Susan Bolanio.

Banana plantations have long preferred aerial spraying because it is the most effective and cost-efficient method to apply fungicide which is used to kill the sigatoka plant virus.

But anti-aerial spraying activists contend that it is a dangerous practice since it indiscriminately contaminates water sources and nearby communities.

“Banana plantations in North Cotabato supposedly intend to use aerial spraying to apply a fungicide which will kill the Panama fungus. But the Panama disease is caused by a soil-borne fungus, so aerial spraying is not the appropriate mode of fungicide application,” Pelino said.

The Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Citizens Against Aerial Spraying) in Davao City called for vigilance against efforts to bring back aerial spraying in banana plantations in Mindanao.

“We need to be alert to any similar moves by plantation companies to undermine the environmental provisions of the ordinances. The Cotabato incident can also happen to other LGUs which have ordinances that ban aerial spraying.”, said MAAS President Dags Magaway.

Other areas which have similar anti-aerial spraying provisions in their local ordinances include Bukidon and Davao City.

“Aerial spraying is a toxic and dangerous method of applying fungicides. No less than the Department of Health has issued a resolution declaring the practice as a public health hazard that must be stopped. Instead of trying to circumvent the law, plantations should shift to eco-friendly methods to combat plant disease,” Magaway said, while pointing out that banana plantations in Cotabato have flourished for eleven years now without using aerial spraying.

He also said that there are organic methods of fighting the sigatoka disease. “Also, there is a great demand for organic bananas in the world market. In the long run, they will earn more if they discontinue conventional pesticide intensive practices and shift to organic farming methods,” he said. | PR

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