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PIA Press Release

British aerial spraying expert arrives to help craft operational guidelines in banana farms

By Marvyn N. Benaning

Davao City (26 January) -- Dr. Andrew Hewitt, an expert aerial spraying of fungicide and drift, is in town to help the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) formulate guidelines for a study on the impact the aerial spraying in banana plantations in Mindanao.

Hewitt was invited by the FPA to help the newly-formed FPA-DA Task Force on Aerial Spraying in conducting an intensive study on the effects of aerial spraying on communities surrounding banana plantations in the Davao Region.

Aerial spraying of fungicide has been resorted to by members of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), the country's biggest organization of banana producers, for the past several decades to battle the deadly black sigatoka virus.

PBGEA maintains it is the most economical method for the $789 million industry to prevent the decimation of banana stands to the lethal fungus.

Banana growers have insisted there is no harm in employing aerial spraying of fungicide and maintained that not a single person has contracted any disease because of it.

The British expert arrived last Saturday, January 23, but his official visit will be from January 25 to 29 and will be spending three days in Davao.

Hewitt is the manager or Chemical Applications Research and Training (CART) at Lincoln Ventures Ltd., a science and technology company of Lincoln University in Canterbury, England.

He has done extensive voluntary work for technical societies and is a member of the editorial board for three international journals.

Hewitt chaired technical committees of several international societies, organized several international conferences, and is senior advisor to government organizations in Australia and the United States.

He has himself published hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles on aerial spraying and its drift mechanics.

From 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, January 27, he will meet with scientists from the University of the Philippines (UP) and hold a technical presentation and tackle questions on the scientific technologies prescribed internationally to undertake studies of aerial spray drift and its effects on off-target areas.

The venue will be the Lorenzo Hall of the UP Mindanao administration building at the university campus at Mintal, Davao City.

Entitled "Technical Forum on the Science Behind Aerial Spraying," the discussion will be held auspices of the 15th Anniversary Symposium Series of UP Mindanao in cooperation with the FPA.

Chancellor Gilda Rivero of UP Mindanao will open the event.

Prof. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr. of UP Mindanao, Academician of the National Academy of Science, will be one of the reactors, together with Councilor Leonardo Avilla III of the Davao City Council Committee on Environment and Engr. Rex Labadia of the Department of Health (DoH) in Davao.

Prof. Calixto Protacio of the UP Los Banos College of Agriculture will facilitate the forum. (PIA) [top]

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