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Banana farmers told to use drones for spraying

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Wednesday advised banana growers to use unmanned aerial technology or drones in their banana plantations.

“I will meet with the members of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association to discuss the possible use of drones in their aerial spraying,” Alcala said.

“Even if they say that they are using organic ingredients, the main concern of the lawmakers is the ‘excessive’ amount of chemicals being dumped during overhead spraying, which may allegedly cause respiratory illnesses,” Alcala said.

Alcala said aerial drones could hover as close as two meters from the ground which would lessen the amount of chemicals being dumped.

“Some congressmen expressed their concern because the distance of aerial spraying from the plant to the height of the plane is 10 to 15 meters. The drone technology is readily available and is cheaper. It is just a matter of adopting what is better for our industry,” he said.

Several civil society groups earlier urged Congress to immediately pass a bill which aims to ban the use of aerial spraying.

Under consideration by the House committee on ecology chaired by Rep. Amado Bagatsing is House Bill 3857, entitled ‘An Act prohibiting aerial spraying as a method of applying chemicals and similar substances on agricultural crops.’

The bill is authored by Gabriela Women’s Partylist Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus; Bayan Muna Reps. Neli Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate; ACT Teachers’ Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio; Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap; and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon.

PBGEA, however, said aerial spraying was a generally accepted agricultural practice by the World Trade Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations under certain limitations which the banana industry was strictly adopting, otherwise importers might stop buying from them.

PBGEA said a multi-sectoral monitoring team that focused on banana plantations was overseeing the compliance of these regulations.

The Philippines is the world’s second largest exporter of fresh bananas.

The top major export destinations for fresh Cavendish bananas are Japan, China, Korea, the Middle East and New Zealand with stringent policies on food product.

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