STAKEHOLDERS of the distinctively Mindanaoan enterprise that is the Philippine export banana industry expressed jubilation that the long-overdue Mindanao Development Authority is finally becoming a reality.

"It is imperative that the structure that has been doing a great job of integrating and managing the development initiatives in our island-region must be made permanent and strengthened," said Stephen A. Antig, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association.

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Antig was referring to the Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco) which will be transformed into the Mindanao Development Authority with President Arroyo's signing into law today of the bill establishing the agency.

"The agency plays a very vital and pivotal role in accelerating our development as an island-region and the task is imperative not only as a matter of state policy but as a matter of national survival," declared Antig, citing Mindanao as the country's key resource towards food security.

In a separate press statement, Renante Bangoy, president of the "Save Our Sagingan" Movement said, "the establishment of the Mindanao Development Authority augurs well for the socio-economic growth of Mindanao and a welcome move although long-overdue."

"It has also raised our expectations for a more responsive, realistic, comprehensive and cohesive national policies towards Mindanao," said Bangoy, as he expressed hope that the Mindanao Development Authority will shield Mindanaoan entrepreneurs from the whims and caprices of armchair decision-makers in Manila.

Bangoy pointed out the pains and sufferings foisted upon small banana growers by the Manila-based anti-spray lobby which he claimed was exacerbated by a couple of cabinet officials and lately by the Commission on Human Rights through their myopic interpretation of the "precautionary principle."

"The Rio Declaration of 1992 stipulates that we must make use of the safest means of production to protect our people's health and the environment and this was the underlying principle when the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization adopted guidelines in Rome in 2001 for aerial spraying," said Bangoy.

Bangoy urged the Commission on Human Rights to desist from bashing the Philippine export banana industry and abetting what he believes is "a foreign-funded conspiracy against Asia's only viable export banana industry."