by Germelina Lacorte, Philippine Daily Inquirer
DAVAO CITY-The food poisoning that killed 27
children in Bohol has given environmentalists a new reason to
fight for a total pesticide ban in the country and to call for
the abolition of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).
Mindanao-based coalitions of environment groups dared Congress
to act on the charter that created the FPA, and abolish it because
of its failure to ensure people's safety from pesticides entering
"What can kill insects can also kill humans," said
Dr. Romy Quijano, president og Pesticide Action Network-Phillipines
and a University of the Philippines toxicologist actively campaigning
for a pesticide ban in Mindanao.
Quijano's statement came after the health department concluded
that the 27 children who died in Bohol early this month had eaten
food laced with chemical compound carbamate, a common ingredient
of agricultural and household pesticides.
"If FPA cannot do its job of ensuring people's safety from
pesticides, there is no reason why it continues to exist,"
according to Dr. Rex Linao, co-convenorof the environment group
Panaghoy sa Kinaiyahan-Coalition for Mother Earth.
Linao had proposed that the FPA be dissolved and the savings
the government will get as a result be used to compensate victims
of pesticide poisoning in the country each year.
Twenty-seven schoolchildren died and scores of others were hospitalized
from a rural village in the central island of Bohol on March 9
after eating caramelized cassava during recess, a disaster that
the health department blamed on careless food preparation.
Quijano has repeatedly warned people against the hazardous effects
of pesticides. He said nobody is safe from pesticides, which until
now are still being used by big banana plantations in Mindanao.
"They're like bombs, designed to kill," said Linao.
Earlier, Quijano said over 30 chemical pesticides, already banned
in Europe and the United States, where they originated, are still
being used by banana plantations in the Philippines.
Linao said only a few doctors in the country are trained to diagnose
pesticide poisoning and most of the cases happening in big banana
plantations in Mindanao go unreported.
Each year, over 220,000 people die of pesticide poisoning, mostly
in poor countries, where over 25 million are poisoned by banned
pesticides, according to the World Health Organization and the
United Nations for Environment Protection (UNEP).
Earlier, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Reynaldo
Wycoco confirmed that pesticide, not cyanide naturally found in
cassava, killed the children.