Thousands of Philippine banana workers marched in Davao City on Friday afternoon to protest against the country’s decision to ban aerial fungicide spraying of crops.
With anti-riot policemen watching on, the workers shouted down speakers calling for the ban while legislators met at a nearby hotel to conduct a public hearing on the matter, the Manila Bulletin reported.
Supporters of the ban claim two of the chemicals used in the spraying, chlorothalonil and mancozeb, are poisons which cause skin rashes and, in some cases, severe allergic reactions.
But demonstrators claimed there is little scientific proof that the low concentrations of the substances used in spraying could be harmful to humans.
Spokesman for the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) Anthony Sasin said the solution used in aerial spraying is mostly water mixed with banana oil and mancozeb.
Mr Sasin also said guidelines for aerial spraying are very strict, with flaglines determining which areas could be sprayed at any given time.
“No aerial spraying could be done if the wind is three km per hour and when the temperature is 82oF,” he said.
Mr Sasin added that Japan, the export destination for up to 90 per cent of Philippine bananas, had found no problems with them, even after conducting extensive toxicity tests.
"Our bananas have passed their stringent tests and we wonder why our compatriots insist on the ban," he said.
Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque issued an order for the ban to be maintained until aerial spraying is proven safe.