15 August 2009

Ateneo Students Light Candles as Clamor to Ban Aerial Spraying Spreads

Quezon City. As visiting farmers from Davao City patiently wait for Environment Secretary Atienza to act on their plight, concerned students of the Ateneo de Manila University sought divine help to put an end to the aerial spraying of pesticides in banana plantations in Mindanao.

Aerial spraying is the practice of dispersing pesticides from an airplane to rid banana crops of the sigatoka fungus, causing proven health and environmental problems as harmful chemicals are indiscriminately applied with no distinction between pests and humans.

Students joined the clamor to stop what has been called as “toxic rain” in a solidarity Mass and candle lighting organized yesterday by the Ateneo Student Catholic Action (AtSCA) at the College Chapel.

After the Mass officiated by Fr. Robert Rivera, SJ, students and guests from the Mindanao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS) lighted candles in front of a Marian statue and together prayed for aerial spraying to stop.

The event saw students committing to launching a signature drive and spreading information about the plight of communities affected by aerial spraying through various communication and social networking tools.

“As an organization rooted in faith that does justice, AtSCA stands by MAAS and pledge to support their quest for human rights, including the right not to be poisoned with hazardous substances, by telling others about their stories and hopes,” said Michelle Roque, President of AtSCA.

“We promise to spread awareness about the issue and to help the victims of aerial spraying in Mindanao in whatever way we can,” added Cherryl Si, President of the Development Society.

AtSCA and MAAS were joined by the representatives of the Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League, Ateneo Christian Ministry Group, Youth For Christ—Ateneo, Development Society, Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng Loyola Schools, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, and the Office of Social Concern and Involvement.

Members of the Alternative Research for Empowerment, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Families and Communities Network, Interface Development Intervetions and Mother Earth Foundation also came in solidarity.

In a statement, AtSCA called on the banana industry “to prioritize the welfare of the people over any profit-generating strategy” that undermines the rights of the people.

“We invite banana planters to explore alternatives to aerial spraying since these are equally effective in ridding crops of pests as seen in Bukidnon and North Cotabato where banana plantations continue to thrive despite compliance to provincial bans,” said AtSCA

AtSCA cited a recently released study commissioned by the Department of Health that showed traces of pesticides, including carcinogenic substances, in blood of residents and in air and water samples in Sitio Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur.

The study recommended a ban on aerial spraying and a shift to organic farming methods to protect the public health.

To download AtSCA’s statement on aerial spraying, please go to:

http://atsca.multiply.com/journal/item/4/AtSCA_Statement_on_Aerial_Spraying

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