Renewed calls to ban aerial spraying foil rehab efforts-A A +A
Friday, February 22, 2013
THE more than 300,000 workforce of the banana export industry is facing another set of challenges as critics of the industry continue to slam its agricultural practices.
Early this month, anti-aerial spraying activists lambasted the National Government for the lack of a unified policy on the use of aerial spraying in managing diseases in big plantations.
The Interface Development Interventions (Idis) and the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Maas), commemorated the passage of the Davao City Anti-Aerial Spraying Ordinance with a media campaign staunchly advocating for the ban of aerial spraying in the country attributing various health and environmental hazards to this globally-accepted practice.
Asked for his comments, Stephen Antig, Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director, said that while the industry has been continuously improving and upgrading its practices, which primarily rely on scientific research and development and advanced technologies, some groups continue to wage smear campaign against the industry.
"We have not yet recovered from Typhoon Pablo, the series of flooding, as well as the market crises in China and Iran among others. As an export-oriented sector, the continuous strengthening of the peso for the past two years has now become a burden too. Our farmers, communities and growers need to get back on their feet as soon as possible. But, instead of helping us some sectors would rather kill the industry," Antig said.
Calling the issues raised as "mere rehash," Antig said the industry will no longer take it sitting down as there are families who will go hungry and communities that will be saddled with socio-economic problems brought about by unemployment and inadequate livelihood opportunities should the industry suffers.
"This is not just about profit. It is about providing the access for people to improve the quality of their lives," Antig said.
"Instead of hitting the government and the industry, these critics like Idis and Maas propagandists should somehow make significant contributions in generating jobs and livelihood opportunities in the countryside as this is now the primary concern of everyone amidst the massive devastation brought about by natural calamities. Otherwise, they should justify their vigilance to what they claimed as human rights issues without distorting the facts," Antig added.
Antig said the country's banana industry has been operating for the past 44 years and has continuously abided with the laws of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) and the regulations and safeguards set by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
A multi-sectoral monitoring team that focused on banana plantations oversees the compliance of these regulations.
"In case our critics are forgetting, we are producing a food product that is exported to countries with even more stringent policies. We are very careful and very scientific in our production practices. In fact, even before the Department of Agriculture (DA) strictly imposed the government certification for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), our members already hold third party certifications,” he said.
“I am sure these environmentally-vigilant NGOs are familiar to some of these certifying bodies such as Rainforest Alliance (RA), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), Global GAP, Social Accountability International (SAI) and a lot of international certifications such as ISO 14001 on environmental performance and ISO 22000 for food safety management systems including organic standards required by most importing countries," Antig added.
The PBGEA executive director enjoined the critics of the banana industry to focus their campaign to the real needs of the country as determined during the recently conducted Philippine Development Forum which is the creation of job opportunities especially in organized industries and in agriculture.
"I wish to invite them to be our partners as we continue to develop the countryside through peace-promotive and conflict-sensitive means," he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 22, 2013.