Banana group fears spread of Panama disease

DAVAO CITY — The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) is fearing for the possible spread of Fusarium wilt in banana plantations in Davao del Norte if biosecurity installations are removed.

In a press statement on Tuesday, PBGEA Executive Director Stephen Antig pointed out that the provincial government of Davao del Norte, which is seeking to clear all road obstructions, may “inadvertently help destroy the same industry that is paying huge amounts of taxes that pay for the services provided to their constituents”.

Antig said “cooler heads” should intervene in what the industry sees as “coercion” by local politicians “who may be unaware of the danger of their actions”.

In an earlier statement, Governor Edwin Jubahib made it clear the provincial government only wants to remove road barriers on government roads within the banana plantations to allow people to freely use them.

Recently, the provincial government tried to remove the road barriers installed by the Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (Tadeco) in Barangay Tanglaw, Dujali; El Canto Road in Barangay Balagunan; and Bugtong Lubi Road in Barangay Bobongan, Santo Tomas town.

However, Tadeco insists that entry barriers help guide the public to go through “tire dips” and insecticide sprays for passing vehicles, and “footbaths” for pedestrians entering the plantation.

Tadeco said the road barriers are part of the biosecurity facilities that are crucial in preventing the spread of the Panama disease or fusarium wilt.

Antig pointed out that Panama disease has affected banana plantations in Davao del Norte barangays where there are no biosecurity facilities.

About 2,402 hectares of banana plantations are reported to have been affected by the disease in Davao del Norte alone.

“The provincial and local governments should, in fact, promote the industry since the banana companies are top taxpayers in their respective areas of operation,” Antig said. Digna Banzon/PNA-