FIVE years after it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC), local environmentalists will revive its call on the banning of aerial spray in all agricultural entities within Davao City.

Dagohoy Magaway, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Maas) president, said in a press release on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, they relaunched their campaign this year because some aerial spray ban ordinances that were successfully enacted in neighboring provinces in Mindanao are at risk of being abolished.

The city government passed an ordinance in 2007 banning the use of aerial spray in all agricultural entities within the city and encouraging ground spraying instead. However, its legality was questioned by several banana companies in court and filed a lawsuit against the City of Davao seeking to strike down the ordinance as unconstitutional.

On August 16, 2016, the SC declared Davao City’s ordinance on the banning of aerial spray as "unconstitutional.” The high court also denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Maas and the Davao City Government.

Magaway called the SC ruling unjust and unfair as it favored "on behalf of the interests of private corporations, rather than the welfare of its citizens."

"It has taken five long years for us, local Davaoeños, to understand the reasons behind the 2016 Supreme Court’s rules in favor of industry-defined technicalities rather than in the defense of innocent lives affected by the fumigation of chemical pesticides in and around the banana plantations,” Magaway said.

"That reason is because the justices of the Supreme Court are themselves animals, mga hayop!!! [sic]," Magaway added.

The province of Bukidnon, in 2001, passed a local ordinance banning aerial spray in order to protect the livestock and poultry industries in Bukidnon.

Likewise, in 2004, the province of Cotabato passed an environmental code banning the agricultural method with the stated clause that sprayed farms lay adjacent to poultries, piggeries, cattle ranches, and other agri-based businesses.

Magaway said the SC ruling is now putting the ordinance of Bukidnon and North Cotabato at risk of abolition.

"By using the Supreme Court decision to overturn existing protections, banana corporations may replicate their methods of spraying in Davao City ordinance banning aerial spraying," he said.

"Their silence speaks volumes; it clarifies that commercial animals possess more rights and protections under the Philippine Constitution than us humans do," Magaway said.

In a previous SunStar Davao report, SC said the ordinance is believed to be violating the “equal protection clause in the Constitution since it prohibited aerial spraying regardless of the substance or the level of concentration of the chemicals to be applied and imposed the 30-meter buffer zone in all agricultural lands in Davao City regardless of the size of landholdings.”

The ordinance was also deemed to have violated “the due process rights of banana growers.”

However, Magaway questioned why not one among the members of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association nor of the Supreme Court, questioned the legality or constitutionality of the ordinances of these areas.

In a separate statement, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (Idis) said the ill effects of pesticides and aerial spraying have been well documented and researched in numerous international and local studies.

In 2019, Idis conducted a study entitled “Mapping of Cavendish Banana Plantations & Affected Communities of Aerial Spraying in South Central Mindanao” to check the actual situation of banana plantations within the area, verify active aerial spraying practices, and analyze its effects on the community.

The study revealed that four barangays in Davao City have continued and resumed aerial spraying in their plantations -- Barangay Dacudao, Barangay Lacson, Barangay Subasta, and Barangay Lasang.

The group said they are alarmed as there are residential communities and schools adjacent to these plantations with weak agricultural buffer zones.

In relation to the conducted study, the Idis met with different representatives from Fertilizers Authority of the Philippines (FPA), Barangay Sirib, Barangay Lacson, and Office of Councilor Ralph Abella.

During the discussion, Idis said affected barangays shared that numerous trees were cut down to make way for plantations and they noticed a decrease in the production of cacao and other fruit-bearing trees as an adverse effect of aerial spraying.

“Though FPA released Memorandum Circular No. 28, series of 2018, or Good Agricultural practices for remotely piloted aircraft systems for use as spraying, this is not enough,” Idis said.

On August 13, 2021, the group visited Dacudao and Lacson to check and ask the residents about their situation and problems regarding aerial spraying. The residents of both barangays revealed that there are no buffer zones between the plantations and their communities.

The group added that some residents are suffering from skin itchiness. They also shared that the schedule of aerial spraying is not strictly observed; residents near the plantations have no idea when the plantations will spray the pesticides for bananas.

"We unite with the calls of the communities to stop aerial spraying in the city. Plantations should shift to non-aerial application methods with minimal chemical drift and impacts that would not affect the residents, farm workers, and children's health and livability. Also, the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) should regularly monitor the buffer zones of these plantations and other mitigation measures set in their ECCs (Environmental Compliance Certificate)," Idis Program Coordinator Lemuel Lloyd Manalo said.

Idis also urged DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to revive the Multipartite Monitoring Team (MTT) for Agricultural Plantations through an administrative order.

The group also called on the Davao City government to fully implement the Watershed Code that prohibits aerial spraying on environmentally critical areas, create a Local MTT for Plantations, and support the proposed city ordinance on banning aerial spray in all agricultural entities within Davao City.

SunStar Davao has yet to get the side of the city government on this matter.