MindaNews (Mindanao, Philippines), May 1, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: The government of Davao City in Mindanao, Philippines, invokes the precautionary principle to justify banning aerial spraying of pesticides on bananas. Banana growers say they'll fight this precautionary measure in court.]

By Walter I. Balane, MindaNews

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 April) -- From the halls of the City Council and the newsrooms, the battle over the legislation to ban aerial spraying has reached the halls of justice. The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), which last month indicated it might go to court, asked the court Wednesday to declare the ordinance null and void but pending that, the group wants a temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction against the city government to prevent it from implementing the ordinance banning aerial spraying.

The city government stood firm on implementing the ordinance passed on March 23, giving the banana industry three months or up to June 23 to prepare the shift to ground spraying.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte last month said they will defend the ordinance in court as only a TRO can stop its implementation.

City Administrator Wendel Avisado in an interview Monday welcomed the suit saying the City Legal Office is ready and prepared to answer the case. "We have no plans of backing out of the implementation," he said.

He said it is better that way (court battle) to settle the issue once and for all on who is right or wrong.

He clarified that the bottomline of the case could be the challenge of the constitutionality of the city council enacting the ordinance.

He said it is embodied in the Local Government Code of 1991's Section 16 on the General Welfare Clause.

PBGEA claimed the ordinance was oppressive, without due basis and could lead to the collapse of the banana industry in the city, according to the petition by its president Stephen Antig.

Antig earlier said they didn't want to resort to legal battle right away.

Antig last month told reporters the industry could invest in the needed infrastructure demanded in the shift but asked the city government to extend the phase out period from three months to five years.

Duterte found the requested period too long and told reporters the city was awaiting legal challenge to the ordinance as it is intent on its implementation.

PBGEA had earlier stressed the ordinance lacked scientific basis that would prove the chemicals used harm people and the environment. City legislators countered by invoking the precautionary principle.

PBGEA said in the petition the shift to ground spraying could mean workers losing jobs and the city government losing millions of pesos in taxes.

On March 24, Antig told reporters banana firms would continue doing business in the city and would not displace jobs as he announced they would continue sending feelers for reconsideration.

Environmentalists hit PBGEA's going to court. In a press release, the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) denounced the group for its alleged arrogance and inability to respect the city government's decision "over a policy that involved lives of the people and the environment."

Lia Jasmin Esquillo, executive director of Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (Idis), was quoted as saying it is a manifestation of the group's (PBGEA) denial to recognize its responsibility to provide the people with a secured and safe environment as it do business.

Davao City is only the second local government after Bukidnon, which legislated a ban on aerial spraying in Mindanao.

At least 76 percent of the country's 4.28 million metric tons banana output in 2004 came from Mindanao, 41% of which came from Southeastern Mindanao region, where Davao City is.

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