BUGUIAS, Benguet — Vegetable farmers using chemical pesticides may now return empty containers to distributors and manufacturers with the Empty Container Management Program set in place with the September 11 signing of a memorandum of agreement.
Mayor Felicio R. Bayacsan, representing local vegetable producers in the MOA, said the farmers just learned of the adverse impact of chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilizers when two local universities conducted a study among Buguias and Kapangan farmers.
He said a lot of other studies point to the abuse of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers
“The findings opened our eyes to the hazards,” Bayacsan told the media during the Kapihan sa Benguet at the town hall Thursday. He did not elaborate on the hazards, but emphasized the need to manage the toxic wastes.
Benguet farmers leave the empty containers anywhere because they are unaware these would pose danger to humans and the environment, added Bayacsan. The Agno River reportedly carries the toxic wastes to lowland farms and the Lingayen Gulf, which is a major fishing ground in northern Luzon.
With the forging of the agreement, pesticide and fertilizer companies would retrieve the containers from the gardens. Bayacsan said he had talked with representatives of Syngenta and Bayer for the bottle retrieval plan.
“Ti problema kayat da a dakami ti mangrumek ti bote,” (The problem is that they wanted us to shred the bottles) said Bayacsan. The shredding would minimize the volume for easier packaging and transport, he added.
The MOA seeks to enforce relevant regulations; determine related activities geared at the proper handling of pesticide containers; and find funding for the project. It also proposes the testing of farms and the environment for the extent of pesticide contamination.
Signatories to the MOA besides Bayacsan and Loo Barangay Captain Delino Dampilag Sr. include representatives of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA); Crop Protection Association of the Philippines; Philippine Integrated Crop Management Association; Integrated Waste Management, Inc.; Croplife Philippines and Newfoundland and Plastic Manufacturing Corporation.
FPA’s mandate is to regulate fertilizer and pesticide use and to educate the public of the n the benefits as well as the hazards of pesticide use and its proper handling, including proper disposal of empty containers.
In the meantime, experts have advised residents in contaminated farms to add one more pipe to their pumped water sources and to boil drinking water.
Admitting there was an abuse in the use of fertilizers and pesticides, Bayacsan said more farmers are now either controlling the use of inorganic inputs or shifting to organic farming.
In a study done on a ten-year period from 1980 to 1990 Dr. Charles Cheng and Katherine Bersamira of the Filipino-Chinese Hospital noted pesticide-related health problems of farmers, such as itchy skin, dry lips, watery and itchy red eyes that lasted for days, abdominal and chest pains, muscle cramps, appetite loss, dizziness, nose bleeding and irregular and discolored nails.
Last year, another study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) of UP Manila tried to collect blood samples among Benguet farmers and correlated ailments these have been suffering from. Participating farmers underwent examinations of the head, eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck, lungs, heart, abdomen and extremities. Past ailments, lifestyle, food preferences and eating habits, chemical and pesticide exposure, including occupational practices regarding pesticide use, storage and waste disposal were among those included in the interviews.
The NIH research results though were kept from the public to prevent undue panic among Benguet residents. # Lyn V. Ramo