Global NGOs Back Farmers’ Campaign vs Aerial Spraying

Quezon City. Global public health and environmental non-government organizations have thrown their full weight behind the farmers-led campaign to ban aerial spraying of pesticides in banana plantations in Mindanao.

In a statement released through the EcoWaste Coalition, the Pesticide Action Network – Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP), International Persistent Organic Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) pressed the Government of the Philippines to heed public clamor for human rights and chemical safety and forbid pesticide aerial spraying.

The groups particularly requested the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the national focal point of the Philippines for the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), to introduce a national ban and show its resolve to pursue chemical safety for public safety and environmental health.

SAICM is a global policy and strategy adopted in 2006 by governments, including the Philippines, to protect human health and the ecosystems from the harms caused by exposure to toxic chemical substances.

A 6-person delegation from the Mindanao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS, or Citizens Against Aerial Spraying) met Secretary Atienza last August 3, along with the Manila members of the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS).

“All eyes are now on Environment Secretary Atienza whom the affected farmers have approached for support. Will he listen to the farmers’ plea for health and justice? The whole world will be watching,” said Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PAN-AP.

“As the lead agency for SAICM, we urge him to show the way and uphold the rights of the people and nature not to be drenched and poisoned with toxic chemicals,” Rengam added.

Filipino health and environmental advocates are pinning their hopes on Secretary Atienza who made a historic decision banning endosulfan in February 2009 albeit temporary “to protect the public health from any undesirable risks and hazards” from the use and exposure to this highly
toxic pesticide.

“There is no reason why the government cannot fully ban toxic aerial spraying, aside from simply pandering to corporate greed. This immoral and harmful practice must be ended once and for all,” commented Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Earlier, a team of experts from the Department of Health had recommended the banning of aerial spraying of pesticides based on their findings that validated reported health and environmental impacts in the village of Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur.

“Banning the aerial spraying of pesticides will be a welcome step towards preventing chemical pollution and reducing chemical risks. It will hopefully induce the industry into switching to environmentally sound and safer substitutes, including non-chemical alternatives to managing pests,” said Australia-based Dr. Mariann Lloyd Smith, Co-Chair of IPEN.

Ecologically-produced food, Smith pointed out, is gaining market traction in Japan (the main destination of commercially-grown Cavendish bananas) and elsewhere as consumers become more conscious about food safety and human rights.

“We also hope that Secretary Atienza will complement the ban on aerial spraying with another directive that will initiate a participatory process towards creating a robust chemicals regulatory regime, in line with SAICM, to keep humans and the ecosystems safe from chemical assaults and harms,” added US-based Monica Wilson, Co-Coordinator, GAIA.

MAAS had earlier received 10 statements of support for its steadfast campaign against aerial spraying from Europe and North America. Four came from US (Pesticide Watch, Play Not Spray, Stop the Spray, People Against Chemical Trespass) and six from Europe (Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement 11.11.11 in Belgium, FoodFirst Information and Action Network in Italy, and the Catholic Women Organization, Friends of the Earth, Philippine Solidarity Group and Stichting Vredesburo Eindhoven in the Netherlands).