Participants of the National Oil Palm Conference held on May 09-10 in Davao City, Philippines call to ban Furadan, glyphosate and paraquat.
Thirty (30) representatives from 20 organizations of indigenous peoples, farmers, trade unions, agricultural workers and advocates from Luzon, Palawan, and Mindanao and one participant from Indonesia attended the conference organized by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and Hongkong-based Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC).
Groups warned that “the use of toxic pesticides in oil palm cultivation such as Furadan, Glyphosate and Paraquat poses health hazards not only to farm workers directly handling these toxic materials but also to entire communities affected by the contamination of water systems.”
“A. Brown Company is using highly hazardous pesticides like carbofuran (furadan) and paraquat. Residents interviewed in Opol, Misamis Oriental started to notice illness that they can only attribute to A. Brown’ Company’s chemical use in the palm oil plantation. Many of them suffered from abdominal pains and diarrhea,” narrated Rhoda Gueta, APC secretariat coordinator who joined the conference. Gueta is citing the results of the International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM) that the APC co-organized with KMP, KMP-NMR, RMP-NMR, Kalumbay and the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) on May 6-10, 2012.
A. Brown is now A. Brown Energy and Resources Development or ABERDI after its merger with its wholly-owned subsidiary, Nakeen Corporation. ABERDI is now operating a 1,350-hectare oil palm plantation located in the areas of Kalabugao, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon and Tingalan, Opol, Misamis Oriental.
“Villagers in Opol shared to us in the IFFM that during spraying of chemicals in the plantation, residents also experienced nausea and headache. People around the plantation experienced an increase in incidences of cough and colds and various skin diseases. Labourers in the palm oil plantation are also not provided with protective equipment while spraying chemicals,” added Gueta.
CTUHR also shared the results of their research in Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation Inc (FPPI) and Agusan Plantation Inc. (API) in Caraga region saying that “there is no health and safety orientation given to workers concerning possible hazards of chemicals and fertilizers applied. In general, occupational health and safety and are not followed particularly with regard to handling pesticides.”
Furadan and Paraquat are known to be carcinogenic and destructive of the immune system.
According to PAN AP “Paraquat is the worst of herbicides and has no antidote. Farmers and agricultural workers worldwide suffer from skin burns and blindness as a result of using this pesticide, which is so poisonous that a teaspoonful can kill a human being. Workers die when their backpack sprayer malfunctions and they get covered in the herbicide. Paraquat is fatal if ingested, and linked to several long term health problems including kidney failure, respiratory failure, skin cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.”
“Environmental problems related to oil palm are a cause for urgent concern not only to the peasants, agricultural workers and indigenous peoples in the immediate vicinity of the palm oil plantations. Directly or indirectly, children, including infants, are at risk of continuous exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticides,” ended Gueta.
The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) together with its members in the Philippines, such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikulutra (UMA) attended the conference. The participants are calling to “Ban hazardous chemicals and pesticides and upholding people’s right to health and a safe environment!”
The conference declared the establishment of a network opposed to the oil palm plantations in the Philippines, the Task Force NO PALM (or Network Opposed to Oil Palm Plantations) to serve as a platform for coordination, research, education, information dissemination and other campaign-related efforts, and as a stepping stone for the eventual establishment of a broad and strong mass movement against oil palm plantations in the country in the future.###