Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Belmonte vows 'just, equitable' solution to pesticide spraying issue

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. vowed a “just and equitable” solution to a proposal that has reached Congress banning the aerial spraying of pesticide, particularly in banana plantations in the South.

Belmonte said the issue on aerial pesticide spraying must be addressed on its merits, adding that the House has a pending bill banning such an agricultural practice.

Belmonte arrived here Saturday, in his first trip outside of Metro Manila after he assumed as Speaker last year, to lead in the induction ceremonies of the new set of officers of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association Inc. (PBGEA) at the Marco Polo Hotel.

Belmonte said the lobby against aerial spraying of fungicide, which is a common practice in the banana industry, has indeed intensified.

The Davao-based banana industry, which is considered to be the world’s second net exporter of banana, next only to Ecuador, has in a way been affected by the continued effort to totally ban the aerial spraying of fungicide.

“The courts may have provided some respite in favor of the banana industry but such legal reprieve may be temporary as the issue is elevated into the political area,” Belmonte said.

But he gave assurance that Congress would judiciously look into the issue as both sides would be heard.

“Indeed an outright ban against the practice could prove detrimental to the viability of our banana export industry and consequently to the business growers, farmers and families who rely on the industry for their livelihood. But on the other hand, the ecological and health impact of the practice needs to be addressed,” he said.
Belmonte said Congress would do its best to draw up a just and equitable solution to the issue, as it would engage in a scientific scrutiny of the facts and of the competing stakeholders’ concerns.

Nevertheless, he called on the leaders of the banana industry, particularly those in the PBGEA, to actively participate in the legislative process by providing lawmakers with the necessary inputs for the House deliberations on issues affecting the industry.

“You can provide us inputs on matters within their expertise so that together we could consolidate and further advance the gains of your industry,” he said.

According to the PBGEA, the country’s banana industry directly employs 240,000 workers and pays at least P21 billion in wages each year and over P2 billion in taxes and other fees.

The industry produces 155 million boxes or two million metric tons of bananas each year, contributing an average of $730 million in annual export earnings or roughly 24 percent of the country’s total export earnings from agricultural products.


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