By Ananeza Aban, Pinoy Weekly
DAVAO CITY- Environmental groups denounced the tree-planting
project by the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association
(PBGEA) that will use extensive doses of an internationally banned
According to the Watershed Management Coordinating
Council (WMCC), the environment would not be saved if poisonous
chemicals such as Paraquat will be used, even in tree-planting.
The Sagip Kalikasan tree-planting project is spearheaded
by the owners of big banana plantations in Davao, in cooperation
with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
According to Victor Cañizares, WMCC president,
"It is but ironic to realize a project like "Sagip Kalikasan"
and on the other hand promote the use of an internationally banned
"The project is bogus since Paraquat, a banned
pesticide, will not save the environment and definitely runs contrary
of their objectives to promote sustainable agriculture and exercise
their social responsibility," said Lia Esquillo, executive
director of Interface Development Interventions Inc.
Last week, the Banana Export Industry Foundation
(BEIF), PBGEA, DENR, along with Syngenta Philippines, producer
and distributor of Paraquat, held a golf tournament to raise funds
for the tree-planting project.
Syngenta Philippines is set to give technical and
material support, from preparation of the land up to the maintenance
of the trees, using Paraquat (or brand name Gramoxone) purportedly
to control weeds around the trees.
But according to Esquillo, if banana plantation
owners wanted to prove their social responsibility to the environment,
they should not use banned pesticides. Huge, mostly transnational,
banana plantations in Mindanao are extensive users of pesticides,
which have been reported to cause damaging effects to surrounding
communities and the environment.
WMCC also called the attention of the Fertilizers
and Pesticides Authority under the DENR, the concerned government
agency tasked to implement laws regarding restricted and banned
The Senate of the Philippines has recently passed
Resolution 106, "Concuring in the Ratification of the Stockholm
Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)," which
was pushed by environmental organizations through the years.
The Stockholm Convention is an international agreement
to protect people’s health and the environment from POPs.
It aims to eliminate the production, use, and waste of 12 dangerous
chemicals classified as the 'Dirty Dozen'. These are: aldrin,
chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene,
mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins and furans.
The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) declared Paraquat
as part of the Dirty Dozen based on its active ingredient. According
to scientific studies, Paraquat is a highly toxic pesticide without
an antidote and causes severe poisonings in a lot of people, especially
to farmworkers who use them.
"Worldwide concern over the adverse effects
of Paraquat on health is growing. It is time for the government
to implement existing laws banning the use of Paraquat,"
There are already seven countries in Europe banning
Paraquat. These are Austria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Slovenia,
Sweden and Switzerland, which is the country of origin and the
headquarters of Syngenta. In 1993, Norway decided to cancel the
permit to produce Paraquat. In Asia, Kuwait and Malaysia have
also prohibited the use of Paraquat.
According to Dr. Romeo Quijano, professor of the
University of the Philippines Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
and president of PAN Philippines, Paraquat causes skin diseases--
from simple dermititis to severe burns, eye irritation, and other
acute effects. Meanwhile, its chronic effects include Parkinson’s
disease, cancer, and lung disease among those exposed for prolonged