This is the resounding plea of a broad coalition of concerned students, lawyers and advocates for environmental health and social justice who have joined the clamor to ban aerial spraying in the country as they assert that human rights must take precedence over banana profits.
At a “solidarity gathering” held last Friday at the Ateneo de Manila University, Cecilia Moran, President of the Mindanao-based Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) told the assembly that decades of aerial spraying of pesticides in banana plantations without a clear-cut policy ever since should be stopped by the government as a matter of duty because the practice has been violating people's constitutional right to life for so long.
"Bakit nila kami pinapaulanan ng lasong kemikal? Mga tao kami hindi peste. Kahit mahirap lang kami, may karapatan kaming mabuhay na may dignidad at manirahan sa ligtas at malusog na kapaligiran,” Moran said. (“Why do they spray us with chemical poison? We are humans not pests. Even if we are poor, we have the right to live with dignity and dwell in a safe and healthy environment.”)
The “solidarity gathering” was organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, Kaisahan tungo sa Kaunlaran ng Kanayunan at Repormang Pansakahan (KAISAHAN) and the Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN) under the auspices of the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS).
The event, which saw the participation of Akbayan, Alaga Lahat, Ateneo Student Catholic Action, Green Convergence, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines and 20 other groups, is part of the rising advocacy of MAAS in Metro Manila to press
their case for an immediate ban on the aerial spraying of pesticides.
The case against aerial spraying that MAAS has persuasively presented and backed with facts from government studies performed by toxicologists and public health experts did not fall on deaf ears as evidenced by the outpouring of concern and compassion from student, church, environmental and other civil society groups.
“Human life comes first always, not business, not profit. God created bananas for humans and not humans for bananas. If the aerial spraying of bananas harms the very life that it ought to sustain, then it should be stopped,” Bro. Jomari Manzano, SJ, of the AdMU-based Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan said.
The Ateneo Student Catholic Action in a statement said “we strongly believe that the scales of justice should tip in favor of the people’s common good, health, and welfare, and we condemn the continued practice of aerial spraying as it is a clear violation of basic democratic principles on life, health and a healthful ecology.”
During the “solidarity gathering,” Metro Manila groups likened the plight of Mindanao communities impacted by aerial spray to the proverbial saying “ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay dama ng buong katawan” (“the pain of even the index finger is felt by the whole body”) and pledged to support the call for a national ban to remedy the injustice that could also befall the
entire nation if left unattended.
“We join MAAS in urging the government to give the highest priority to removing the health and environmental hazards from harmful chemicals and practices. A national policy banning the aerial spraying of pesticides will protect the people and the ecosystems against toxic pollution, and promote a shift to ecological agriculture,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.
“The campaign against the aerial spraying of pesticides represents a combination of the wise use of local governance powers and the active participation of communities for the defence of our environment,” Atty. Marlon Manuel, Coordinator of the Alternative Law Group (ALG), added.