UPDATED: Banana industry keeps tack, but mulls legal option vs. aerial spray ban

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / March 23) – As the 90-day countdown for the banning of aerial spraying began Thursday, representatives from the banana industry said they were preparing to implement changes in their operation to stay within the parameters of the ban.

But as they announced they would continue doing business here and would not displace jobs, an industry leader said the banana growers and exporters would continue sending feelers for reconsideration and may bring their case before the court.

Stephen Antig, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) told reporters that the industry remained committed to operate their plantations in Davao City even as he claimed that some investors have shied away from putting in new investments in the banana industry.

He said, however, that a worst-case scenario would lead to the implementation of the labor-intensive and time-consuming method of ground-spray.

Antig said that other options would be waged during the grace period that would range from seeking reconsideration from the city government and, including a move to challenge in court the legality of the ordinance.

Last month, the PBGEA sought Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s nod to extend the phase out period from three months to five years. The phase out period as stated in the ordinance would start Thursday. 

He said that phasing out the use of aerial spraying in the banana plantations in only three months would be impossible. “We are prepared for any eventuality,” Antig told reporters here Friday.

He said PBGEA lawyers were also directed to determine the possibility of challenging the legality of the ordinance.

Antig clarified, however, that the industry’s options would be based on how the city government’s would respond to their proposal to extend the phase out period. “We are trying to avoid going into a legal battle here,” he said.

Earlier Friday, Antig told a group of businessmen outside a forum on Davao’s plan to adapt product-branding that “everything is under control” as he said that the industry braced itself the ban.

Antig said they were willing to invest in the infrastructure needed to shift from spraying fungicide using airplanes to booms in ground-spraying.

He said though, that the Philippines was not the only banana producer in the world “and yet it was the only one which has [a locality] banning the use of the [globally practiced] aerial spraying”..

The Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), which advocated for the ordinance, debunked Antig’s claim.

Lia Jasmine Esquillo, IDIS executive director said PBGEA would not need to look at other countries to attack the city ordinance saying that Davao City’s neighboring province, Bukidnon, has banned aerial spraying in 2002.

IDIS also reminded the PBGEA that despite the absence of a ban in aerial spraying in other countries, Esquillo said that there were already calls for nationwide banning of the practice in many banana-producing countries. She added that a call for a total ban on aerial spraying was also being pushed even in non-banana producing countries.

Esquillo also said they welcome the possibility of PBGEA questioning the legality of the ordinance in court saying it is their right to do so but said it would meet the challenge with similar action.

Duterte signed the ordinance on February 10 amid appeals from PBGEA and intercession from Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap. The city council approved the ordinance on February 23. It was first proposed in August 2004. 

About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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