UP expert warns against massive chemical contamination in South Cotabato due to aerial spraying

By Haydee S. Templonuevo
Philippine News Agency

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — A toxicology expert from the University of the Philippines (UP) has warned of possible massive contamination of pesticides and other harmful chemicals to water resources of several towns in South Cotabato due to the continuing aerial spraying activities of agricultural plantation companies operating in the area.

Dr. Romeo Quijano, faculty member of the UP Manila’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, said Friday traces of chemical contamination have already been found in some parts of the province and already caused the emergence of serious diseases.

He specifically cited areas in the municipalities of Surallah, T’boli and Tampakan that host the banana plantations of Sumifru Philippines Corp. and Global Fruits Corporation/Lapanday Diversified Products.

In a presentation before members of the South Cotabato provincial board, Quijano said local residents should be concerned about the aerial spraying pesticides by the two companies as they pose serious risks to human health and the environment.

He said such situation already happened in the past in various areas in the Philippines as well as other countries.

“We inhabit a world where toxic synthetic chemicals have increasingly permeated all aspects of daily life,” he said.

He cited that once toxic chemicals are released via aerial spraying, it will eventually contaminate food, water, soil, air and affect all living organisms, specifically plants, animals and human beings.

Citing his studies, he said exposure to pesticides and related chemicals could cause chronic skin, lung, liver, kidney and heart diseases as well as eye, vascular and gastrointestinal disorders.

They could also trigger complications like cancer, peptic ulcer, fetal abnormalities, fertility, mental immune system, endocrine disorders, and, neurologic and blood diseases.

Quijano said pesticides can also harm the environment since only one to two percent of those used in aerial spraying reaches their target.

He said 98 to 99 percent of it goes to other non-target areas, affecting resources such as land, water, air trees and even nearby farms.

“It can affect biodiversity and deplete our natural resources,” he said.

Quijano recommended to the board, which is studying a possible ban on the conduct of aerial spraying in the province, to give proper information to the populace so they will understand the ill effects of pesticides coming from aerial spraying.

He said measures to enhance community empowerment should also be instituted at all levels and in all sectors.

Aside from the provincial board, Quijano also gave presentations to members of the municipal councils of T’boli and Tampakan.

An environment group earlier urged the provincial government to ban the aerial spraying of pesticides in the province due to their supposed health hazards.
Fr. Monico Puerto, lead convenor of the People’s Alliance in Protection of Environment and Health Against Toxic and Chemical, said they have documented cases of illnesses among residents settled near banana plantations in T’boli reportedly due to the persistent aerial spraying of pesticides in the area.

He specifically cited the case of a public school teacher who suffered problems with her eyesight after allegedly being hit by chemicals sprayed by an airplane while she was walking towards their school, which is located near a banana plantation.

Aside from the teacher, he said a number of residents suffered from various illnesses in the past years due to the effects of the aerial spraying of pesticides in their areas.

T’boli town hosts thousands of hectares of banana plantations of Sumifru, which is a subsidiary of Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. The company also operates banana plantations in Surallah town.


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