Sen. Pimentel Condemns Aerial Spraying as Unconscionable Act as NTFAAS Urges PGMA to Take Action Now

Quezon City. Opposition leader Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. has called on the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to act decisively and ban aerial spraying in the interest of public health and welfare.

In a text message sent to the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS), the Senate minority leader denounced the controversial practice of aerial pesticide operations in giant commercial banana plantations in Mindanao.

“I condemn aerial spraying of farmlands as unconscionable act of corporate farming that causes tremendous damage to farms and to the ecology. It should be banned,” stated Senator Pimentel.

Senator Pimentel had earlier said that big-time banana growers are reluctant to shift to manual ground-spraying of pesticides because they would supposedly incur bigger expenses resulting in the reduction of their profits.

“But it must be emphasized that the health and welfare of the people should not be sacrificed in the name of the business interests of the owners of the banana plantations,” Pimentel asserted.

NTFAAS cautioned President Arroyo against efforts by the banana industry and their cohorts in government to sweep under the rug and attempt to subvert through a “favorable” peer review the government-documented toxic effects of aerial spraying to human health and to the environment.

“The President should use her scheduled visit to Mindanao next week to announce a blanket ban on aerial spraying as an agricultural practice as a precaution against proven chemical contamination of marginalized communities,” challenged Rene Pineda, head of the NTFAAS.

“She should also re-articulate and echo the collective positions of global experts who all called for the cessation of industrial activities that injure humans and the environment during the most recent Philippine-government hosted International Conference on Green Industry in Asia,” he added.

Pineda emphasized that President Arroyo has the highest mandate under our Constitution to protect marginalized Filipinos from the validated, destructive effects of aerial spraying.

“She should look poor farmers in the eyes and see their miseries, as she should also see banana planters’ and their cohorts’ eyes to realize that they have been lying through their teeth with impunity for the longest time. She should, therefore, issue an executive order forbidding aerial pesticide application, better yet, she should announce a shift to ecological farming methods to protect the people and the environment from pesticide drift and contamination,” he pointed out.

The NTFAAS also prodded other political figures to cross party lines and join the clamor to rectify the gross injustice caused by aerial spraying to the poorest of the poor.

“We call upon the country’s leaders from all sides of the political spectrum, particularly those vying for top national positions in the 2010 elections, to publicly defend the people’s right to health, chemical safety and poison-free environment,” said Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, a member of the NTFAAS that is also pushing for green agenda in next year’s polls.

“We urge all presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial and congressional bets to listen to what those who have in less in life are saying, refuse campaign donations from the banana industry and go for aerial spraying ban nationwide,” he added.

Aside from Senator Pimentel, Senator Miguel Zubiri and Representatives Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Teofisto Guingona III and Rufus Rodriguez have publicly sought a ban on aerial spraying in view of its recognized hazards to health and the environment.