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First Posted on Inside Mindanao (www.insidemindanao.com) on November 10, 2008

Farmers protest Court of Appeals' delay in resolving aerial spray ban case
By Ellen Red

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Farmers from Davao City rallied today in front of the Court of Appeals (CA) Cagayan de Oro Office in protest of the alleged court's inaction in deciding the case regarding aerial spraying.

About ten farmers chained themselves for a few minutes at the main door of the CA office; while 15 others carried banners expressing their frustrations over the delay of the CA in deciding the case filed by the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) against the City Government of Davao.

It can be recalled that the City Government of Davao passed last year an ordinance which bans the use of aerial spray. The plantation companies, under the umbrella of PBGEA, challenged the validity and constitutionality of the ordinance by filing a case against the City Government to stop its implementation. The Regional Trial Court ruled in favor of the ordinance.

On October 18, 2007, PBGEA filed an Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and/or a Writ of Preliminary Injunction to the CA. On November 26, 2007, airplanes resumed aerial spraying after the 22nd CA Division issued a 60–day TRO and the subsequent Writ of Preliminary Injunction on the aerial spraying ban ordinance.

Traquilina Alibangon, a farmer from barangay Wangan, Calinan District, Davao City said, "Dili mi mouli kung dili namo bitbit and decision sa korte (We will not go home, unless the court [Court of Appeals 22nd Division] renders a decision)."

Ms. Alibangon said that the CA decision is long overdue, citing a Supreme Court resolution. The Supreme Court resolution referred to by Ms. Alibangon and other protesters states that "the Court of Appeals... that issued a writ of preliminary injuction against a lower court, board, officer or quasi–judicial agency shall decide the main case or petition within six months from the issuance of the writ."

The protesters claimed that based on the Supreme Court resolution, the aerial spray case should have been decided by the CA on or before July 28, 2008.

Just this morning, as the farmers trooped to the CA office, a Supreme Court document was released to the farmers. Dated August 5, 2008, the Supreme Court document granted the CA 22nd Division an extension of six months (from July 25, 2008) to resolve the aerial spray case.

Crispin Alcomendras, barangay kagawad of Wangan, said that the farmers were not informed of the 6–month extension.

Task Force Against Aerial Spray, in a statement said: "The pesticides in the air drift up to three kilometers or more from the treatment site thereby contaminating soil, open bodies of water, the air they breathe, other animals and human environs in the process. We cannot wait much longer. Our lives, children, livelihood and environment are at stake. These should be of more value than the qualities of bananas exported abroad."

A local study conducted nearby a banana plantation in Davao del Sur found out that stomachaches, backaches, and headaches intensify during periods of aerial spraying; infants often are born with abnormalities and severe skin diseases; and babies dying at birth or shortly after are not rare cases.

Earlier, residents of barangay Sirib, Calinan District, Davao City reported that aerial spraying on banana plantations in their village brought forth skin diseases to the residents. Residents also reported that their farm trees and plants were visibly withered as a result of pesticides brought about by aerial spraying.

The umbrella organization of banana plantations PBGEA alleged in its urgent motion before the CA that the ban on aerial spraying would make their bananas susceptible to the Black Sigatoka disease.

The motion, which was submitted to the Court of Appeals last October 18, says that "considering the extreme contagious nature of Black Sigatoka disease, by the time that the Honorable Court resolves the instant appeal on the merits and by the time the appellants are able to mount even a minimal capacity to spray manually, the entire banana plantation would have already been devastated by the Black Sigatoka disease."

In early 2000, the provincial governments of Bukidnon and North Cotabato banned the use of aerial spraying.

With reports from Jojie Jasmin Cabasan


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