Quezon City. Seven presidential candidates have expressed their support for the ban of aerial spraying in banana plantations, according to the latest results of the 2010 Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) Survey conducted by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Ecowaste Coalition.
But among the answers provided, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas’ and Senator Richard Gordon’s answers stood out as having the most clear and progressive position on the issue.
The survey question was: “ Are you FOR or AGAINST the position of the Department of Health recommending that the practice of aerial spraying of agrochemicals in banana plantations be stopped?”
Perlas took the issue head-on, emphasizing on sustainable agriculture as a solution. “We will ban the aerial spraying of hazardous chemicals especially on banana plantations. Instead, we will promote sustainable agriculture approaches to pest and disease management that will adequately protect crops from damage, while protecting the health of communities and ecosystems. Most of the pesticides sprayed by plane do not reach the target pest. If they do, the pests develop immunity.
The immunity requires the use of even more dangerous pesticides. In the end, the farmers, consumers, community and the environment pays the price for this escalation of the pesticide war against insects. In the end, humanity only creates super pests immune to pesticides and will lose this chemical warfare. Ecological approaches have no such drawbacks.”
Sen. Richard Gordon, meanwhile, got plus points for his incisive grasp on the ban aerial spraying issue. “I would emphasize here that aerial spraying forces people to inhale toxins against their will,” he said.
“A plantation owner who uses pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers on his own property can arguably be within his rights to do so, but when it enters the public realm and affects other people or the environment, he causes an injury that government is obligated to prevent.”
Election survey frontrunner, Senator Benigno Aquino III of the Liberal Party, also pushed for a ban “especially if there are no clear safeguards and testing of the agrochemicals used.” He added that “ Insecticides and pesticides used in any aerial spraying should be outright banned.
His closest rival, Senator Manuel Villar of the Nacionalista Party, agreed with him, pointing out that during his tenure at the Senate, he filed a resolution directing the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food and Health and Demography to conduct an investigation into the practice of aerial spraying in banana plantations.
Coun. JC Delos Santos of Ang Kapatiran, Senator Jamby Madrigal and Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas all vowed to stop aerial spraying if they are elected. De los Reyes agreed with the Department of Health recommendation to ban aerial spraying while Madrigal, who is running as an independent, will expand the ban to include other farm lands not planted with bananas. Bro. Villanueva promised to push for legislative action for banning aerial spraying.
Meanwhile, members of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spray (MAAS) in Davao City welcomed the survey results. Dagohoy Magaway, MAAS President, said that this latest survey has clearly shown who among the candidates has a clear agenda towards protecting the environment. “The survey points the way for us, voters, on who among the candidates has the genuine heart and concern for the plight of the environment and the rural folk”, he said.
Magaway, however, was disappointed that former President Joseph Estrada of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino and former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro who is running under Lakas-Kampi did not participate in the GEI Survey. “It would have been instructive for us had they made known their stand on the various environmental issues plaguing the country”, he said. Teodoro however, has been caught in video saying he does not see anything wrong with aerial spraying comparing it even with air fresheners.
The GEI survey was conducted to help voters ascertain the environmental platforms and programs of those running for the presidency. Results of the survey were translated into ‘green’ rankings to show who among the candidates consider environment as one of the key issues of concern in 2010 presidential elections. The final green rankings of the presidential bets will be disclosed in time for Earth Day 2010.