Banana growers seek halt to demolition of biosecurity areas

BusinessMirror file photo of a banana stall in Manila.

THE Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) has condemned the attempts of the provincial government of Davao del Norte to demolish biosecurity facilities against fusarium wilt in a banana plantation as it could harm the country’s billion-dollar export product.

In a statement on Monday, PBGEA appealed to the government for “cooler heads” to intervene in the situation it described as a “coercion by local politicians who may be unaware of the danger their actions bear on the future of the country’s top agricultural export earner.”

“The provincial government of Davao del Norte—in its zeal to clear all road obstructions—may inadvertently help destroy the same industry that are paying huge amounts of taxes that pay for the services provided to their constituents,” PBGEA Executive Director Stephen A. Antig said.

The PBGEA was referring to the road-clearing operations allegedly ordered by Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib last week, which targeted the gates of the plantation managed by Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (Tadeco).

The endangered biosecurity facilities of Tadeco include tire baths and footh baths that prevent the spread of the Panama disease or Fusarium wilt in the 5,308-hectare banana plantation inside the Davao Prison and Penal Farm reservation.

“These should be seen as a protective measure which helps the community in its income generation. If you remove these facilities, you destroy the people’s source of income,” PBGEA Chairman Alberto F. Bacani said.

The PBGEA pointed out that about 4,202 hectares of banana plantations in several Davao del Norte barangays have already been affected by Panama disease due to lack of biosecurity facilities.

Antig noted that the spread of the disease to Brgys. Kimamon, La Libertad, Salvacion, Talomo, Lunga-og Casig-ang, Balagunan, Tibal-og and Kianmayan could have been prevented if the local government had imposed biosecurity facilities in the villages traversed by the plantation roads.

Victor S. Mercado Jr., PBGEA president, said the incident “should help the public appreciate the role and distinction of the local government against national policies on food safety and biosecurity.”

Last October 9, the Panabo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) granted Tadeco’s prayer for the issuance of a 72-hour temporary restraining order (TRO) against the removal of the firm’s biosecurity facility.

In a four-page decision penned by Executive Judge Dax Gonzaga Xenos, the court said Tadeco has been able to prove that the dismantling of its biosecurity facilities will expose its banana plantation to Fusarium wilt.

“Petitioner [Tadeco] has shown, through the various pleadings and documents submitted, that there exists an actual threatened removal of the biosecurity facilities that it is continuing and that should this be carried, it would stand to suffer incalculable injury,” the decision read.

Tadeco Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Zeaus Vadil earlier told the BusinessMirror that the demolition team from the provincial government was able to destroy one of the plantation’s gates before the TRO was served.

Vadil said the TRO was served by the court sheriff, while Mindanao Development Authority Chairman Emmanuel F. Piñol and Jubahib were having a dialogue.

“The intervention of [former agriculture] Secretary Piñol helped to stopped the demolition, but of course the TRO legally stopped it,” Vadil said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Vadil said the company would seek a 17-day extension of the TRO.

The country’s total banana shipments in 2018 expanded by nearly 18 percent to 3.388 MMT from 2.872 MMT, becoming the second-top exporter of the yellow fruit in the world, Philippine Statistics Authority data showed.


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