Organic advocates push for GMO Ban Ordinance

February 15th, 2012 by

Davao City –   The Go Organic Davao City, a network of organic farming practitioners and their supporters, is pushing for the passage of the GMO Ban Ordinance in Davao City.

“We need to protect the integrity of organic agriculture in Davao City”., said Tina Delima , Officer –in-charge of SIMCAARRD. “While the principles of our local  Organic Agriculture ordinance  has explicitly stated that organic crops cannot co-exist with genetically modified crops, we need to ensure the  protection of the agricultural biodiversity of the city from future attempts to plant GMO crops here in the city.”, she said.

The Go Organic Davao City network had been at the foreground of the protests against the recent attempts to revive the field testing of the controversial Bt eggplant in Davao City.

Councilor Bernard Al-ag is calling for a committee hearing this February 15, 2012 to discuss Councilor Pilar Braga’s proposal to enact an Ordinance banning the entry, importation, introduction , planting, growing, selling and trading of Genetically Modified Organisms within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City.  GoDC members are expected to attend.

If eventually approved as an ordinance, Davao City will join a select league of municipalities and cities which are GMO-free and are poised to take charge of the growing demand for organic products domestically and  internationally.

“Currently, the growing market for organic products is expanding at 10-30% per annum.”, said Ling Castro, Policy Advocacy Officer of the Interface Development Interventions. “Davao City can easily tap this market especially since it is also branding itself as a Green Davao , where our lifestyle is sustainable, ecologically safe and healthy .”, she pointed out.

But more than economics, the mainstreaming of organic farming is also an issue of health.

“ International studies have indicated that organic crops contain 40% more antioxidants which lessen the risk of heart disease and cancer compared to pesticide-intensive crops.”, said Castro. “By  ensuring that no GMO crops  will pollute  our agricultural fields in the future, not only can we assure our food security but also the healthy quality of our produce.”, she said.

At present, Bohol, Mindoro and Negros islands have already declared themselves GMO-free.  Elsewhere, municipalities and cities have begun to shift towards organic agriculture by passing local ordinances mainstreaming organic agriculture and outlawing genetically modified crops and  products.

Last November 2011,  President Aquino had also reiterated the support of  his administration to the mainstreaming of organic agriculture  by saying that is poverty alleviation and hunger mitigation strategy at a national conference on organic agriculture. (#)

Protests vs aerial spray still alive, growing louder

February 14th, 2012 by

DAVAO CITY—Groups campaigning against aerial spraying are calling on President Benigno Aquino to issue an executive order banning crop dusters nationwide and urging the Supreme Court to uphold the legality of the ban in the city.

“We’re calling on the Supreme Court to decide fast on the issue in our favor and put an end to our suffering,” said Dagohoy Magaway, the head of the group Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spray.

He said the ordinance has not been enforced in the city five years after it was passed because the Supreme Court has yet to rule on its constitutionality.

“For the Supreme Court to turn a blind eye and deaf ears on the plight of the suffering communities by failing to issue a prompt ruling is an injustice of massive proportions,” he said in a press briefing here to mark the fifth year of the ordinance’s passing.

“But we also ask President Aquino to listen to the pleas of the affected communities by issuing an executive order banning aerial spray,” Magaway said.

“There’s so much talk without action. If the Supreme Court can’t be swayed by our plight, an executive order from the President will provide relief for affected communities,” he said.

Mindanao business groups, such as the Mindanao Business Council and the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), are lobbying against the ban, saying it would kill the local banana industry, Mindanao’s top export product.

A Department of Health study showed the adverse effects of aerial spray on the health of people in communities living near banana plantations.

Magaway said banana plantations temporarily stopped aerial spraying three years after the passing of the ordinance but resumed again in the barangays of Subasta, Dacudao and Wangan, pending the Supreme Court ruling.

In 2007, PBGEA challenged in the Court of Appeals the decision of a local judge who upheld the legality of the ban. The Court of Appeals based in Cagayan de Oro City issued a temporary restraining order against the ordinance, and later declared the ordinance unconstitutional, prompting pro-ban groups to elevate the case to the Supreme Court.

The environment group Interface for Development Interventions (IDIS) also complained that people directly affected by the aerial spray were excluded in a dialogue organized by the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) with different government agencies.

Chinkee Pelino, of IDIS, said the interagency workshop that PCSD organized last year invited representatives from the PBGEA and Croplife, groups strongly lobbying against the ban, while excluding leaders of communities near the plantations.

President Aquino earlier asked the PCSD to consolidate the different positions on aerial spray, after Malacañang was swarmed by petitions from groups calling for an outright ban on the practice because of the hazards it posed to people’s health. The groups said the President should fulfill his campaign promise to give priority attention to the aerial spray issue. Germelina  Lacorte, Philippine Daily Inquirer

MAAS calls on Supreme Court to uphold legality of Davao City Ban AS Ordinance

February 8th, 2012 by

Davao City – Anti-aerial spray activists called on the Supreme Court to finally uphold the constitutionality of the Davao City Ban Aerial Spray ordinance.

“Five years after it was passed, it has yet to be enforced.”, according to Dagohoy Magaway, President of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spray (MAAS). “This is because the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the legality of the ordinance.”

Speaking at a press conference marking the anniversary of the landmark ordinance, Magaway aired his disappointment with the lack of progress. “ For the Supreme Court to turn a blind eye and deaf ears on the plight of the suffering communities by failing to issue a prompt ruling is an injustice of massive proportions.”, he said.

Magaway pointed out that after the ordinance was passed in 2007, banana plantations stopped the practice but lately, plantations have begun aerial spraying again. “Reports coming from the communities have revealed that in the barangays of Dacudao and Subasta, spray planes have again resumed their flights, spraying their deadly mix of poison chemicals.”, said Magaway.

Opponents of the aerial spraying practice have repeatedly pointed out the dangerous effects of the spray drift to the health of the families living along or inside banana plantations.

“The Department of Health had already conducted a study showing the potential risks to the environment and health of anyone that is exposed to the spray drift. ”, said IDIS Executive Director Lia Jasmin Esquillo. “These findings should have been enough to spur the Supreme Court to acting decisively on the issue in favour of the affected communities.”, she said.

Other than the Supreme Court, MAAS had also been lobbying for concrete actions from the Aquino administration.

Last year, President Aquino had tasked the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to consolidate the different positions of various stakeholders. However, the workshop, which was convened by the PCSD, failed to include representatives coming from MAAS and the affected communities.

“They invited representatives from the PBGEA and CROPLIFE but they never invited us. How can we expect a government position which is fair to our cause if we were not even consulted during policy meetings?”, said Magaway.
MAAS and its supporters are now demanding urgent action from President Nonoy Aquino. “We call on President Aquino to listen to the pleas of the affected communities by issuing an Executive Order banning aerial spray. There is too much talk without action.”, said Magaway. “ If the Supreme Court refuses to be swayed by the plight of the affected communities, an Executive Order coming from the highest elected official of the land banning aerial spray outright will provide relief to the affected communities. (#)