10 September 2009

DA Sec. Yap vows to follow DOH action on aerial spray

Quezon City. Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap promised to follow whatever the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) on the banning of aerial spraying in the country.

In a meeting with the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) and the National Task Force Against Aerial Spraying (NTFAAS) Tuesday, Yap said “if DOH says aerial spraying affects health and should be stopped, DA (Department of Agriculture) would follow.”


He also added that he “only wants advanced briefing so he could inform his industry and find solution for his industry”. Yap announced his meeting with Environment Secretary Jose Atienza and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III tomorrow for a common policy concerning this agricultural practice of the banana plantation industry.

Joining MAAS and NTFAAS in the meeting with Yap were lawyer and former Comelec Commissioner Christian Monsod, leaders of the Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Ecowaste Coalition, Kaisahan and Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal, and students from Ateneo de Manila University.


“We are confident that Sec. Yap will be true to his words that he will abide by the DOH-commissioned study that subsequently resolved and proposed to the high-level inter-agency committee to ban aerial spraying,” said Rene Pineda, head of NTFAAS.


MAAS President Cecilia Moran also thanked Sec. Yap for his commitment. “Nagpapasalamat kami sa mga binitawang salita ni Sec. Yap. At sana talaga ay mahinto na ang aerial spraying. Tinanong ko siya mismo, ikaw ba Mr. Secretary gusto ba ninyo na ang mga anak mo ay mae-aerialan habang papunta sa school? At sabi niya ay siyempre hindi".


The DOH executive committee headed by Duque decided to adopt the recommendation of the study “Health and Environmental Assessment of Sitio Camocaan in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur”, the highly contested among them, is the recommendation banning the use of aircraft for spraying.


DOH said: “Given the results generated by the joint study, and in the light of the precautionary principle espoused by the Rio declaration of which the Philippines is a signatory, aerial spraying must be stopped until proof of its safety is clearly established by the industry.”


Also included in the DOH decision is “to perform systematic and periodic monitoring of pesticide residues and metabolites in the environment of Camocaan and other communities adjacent to banana plantations and do remediation where necessary,” in coordination with other agencies and in cooperation with the industry.

Duque and his officials also advised the industry for a shift to organic farming techniques as they noted that acute and chronic pesticide exposure can result in harm to both health and environment.

Pineda and his group also criticized Director Norlito Gicana of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) for his alleged inutility in regulating hazardous pesticides . They said Gicana could not even answer when asked if he would allow himself and his family live in aerially sprayed village.


“The long-drumbeated arguments of Dir. Gicana that FPA only allows low toxicity of Mancozeb to be used as fungicide has been devastated. He could not justify upon questioning why the commercial and regulatory procedures for its use require protective gear and clothing while his agency allows banana companies to aerially spray residents in and around plantations with Mancozeb and other pesticides without protective gears,” Pineda said.


A September 2005 Reregistration Eligibility Decision for Mancozeb of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) showed that “the toxicity database for mancozeb demonstrates that the thyroid is a target organ for mancozeb. Thyroid toxicity was manifested as alterations in thyroid hormones, increased thyroid weight, and microscopic thyroid lesions (mainly thyroid follicular cell hyperplasia), and thyroid

tumors.


In 1992, the US EPA reviewed the mancozeb database relevant to carcinogenicity and classified the pesticide as a “group B2 probable human carcinogen” or can cause cancer to humans. The DOH public health experts who did the Camocaan study also noted this US EPA data.


The DOH study showed that ethylenethiourea (ETU), a degradation product of mancozeb which is used in aerial spraying, was detected in the people's blood, in the air and soil samples.

The experts explained that ETU findings are a particular cause for their concern because it has been documented to produce “follicular and pallilary” thyroid cancers in rats and mice and “hepatocellular” cancer in mice. In humans, they said, there is evidence that thyroid and liver cancers can also be similarly induced.


Serious in its commitment to impose a temporary ban of aerial spraying, Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Environment Management Bureau Director Julian Amador also wrote Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association President Stephen Antig on August 20, requesting his organization to “ensure the temporary suspension of aerial spraying in areas close to residential communities or if not possible, provide adequate buffer zones to prevent drifting of fungicides/ pesticides.”


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