Witness tearfully testifies at aerial spraying hearings

Jun. 07, 2007

Below is a press release sent by IDIS, a environemntal group in Davao that is monitoring the marathon hearings on the injunction being sought by the banana companies against aerial spraying:

DAVAO CITY — A witness of the city government in the ongoing battle over aerial spraying against the big banana aggrupation Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) twice broke into tears in Tuesdays hearing at the regional trial court branch 17.

Cecelia Moran, a resident of barangay Dacudao in Calinan District, became emotional when she was being questioned by presiding Judge Renato Fuentes himself before the hearing adjourned.

Sakit kaayo sa akong bahinnaglugos ko ug ginhawahapit ko mamatay, Moran said when asked to recount her experience where she lost consciousness after inhaling the fumes of the chemicals used in aerial spraying.

She was referring to the time when while aerial spraying was being done outside, someone knocked on her door and she was forced to open it up. Upon opening, Moran said, she saw drops of chemicals on the front yard while the odor, she said, was so intense that after she inhaled it she passed out.

Moran also broke in tears while recounting how she became so weak that I can barely move my arms.

Moran was the first of the four witnesses presented by the city government in the marathon hearings set by Fuentes on the appeal of the PBGEA, along with the Davao Fruit Corporation and Lapanday Agricultural and Development Corporation, for the court to issue a preliminary injunction against the implementation of the ordinance banning aerial spraying.

Also put on the witness stand was Dagohoy Magaway, spokesperson of the Mamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Maas). Magaway, who used to supply puto at the Subasta Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Agricultural Cooperative (Sarbac), said that in many instances, he had experienced how to be hit by the chemicals used in aerial spraying.

In proceeding to Sarbac, I usually pass through the road connecting barangays Balingaeng and Subasta at around 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. It is in these hours that aerial spraying is conducted in Subasta. The road traverses across the vast banana plantation, such that when there is aerial spraying, I usually got hit by the chemicals coming from the aircraft, Magaway said.

Lawyer Melchor Quitain, chief of the city legal office, said the witnesses testimonies were satisfying.

I am satisfied with the way the witnesses testified in court, Quitain said.

Last week, the petitioners presented their own witnesses who, according to group who pushed for the banning, only told the truth and exposed the lies that all these times have been capitalized by the banana plantations, including the admission of a company executive that they would actually need at least 5,000 more workers on top of the existing 7,000 workers if aerial spraying is implemented.

Maria Victoria Sembrano, chairperson of the PBGEA finance committee and also heads the corporate services of the Marsman Drysdale Agribusiness Group, did not only contradicted PBGEAs earlier statement of a possible retrenchment but she also admitted that the manual spraying, compared to aerial spraying, is a lot more efficient and cheapest and something that can be done anytime.

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