Bukidnon task force to probe banana disease – Quimba

MALAYBALAY CITY  (Bukidnon News/03 November) The Provincial
Agriculture Office has composed a fact-finding team to probe reports
that a fungal disease has infected about a thousand hectares of banana
plantations in the province, Engr. Alson Quimba, provincial
agriculturist said Thursday.

Quimba said representatives from the PAO, the DA Regional Banana Task
Force, and the Central Mindanao University will compose the
locally-initiated task force. The team, which includes a team of
pathologists or experts of plant diseases, will conduct inspections in
the banana plantations on November 8 to 10.

He added that the subjects for the fact-finding team are the
plantations of Dole Philippines, Agrinanas Development Co., Inc.
(ADCI), Mt. Kitanglad Agri-Ventures, Inc, Muleta Agri-Development
Corp.

Quimba said the task force is in response to a resolution passed by
the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in September this year urging Quimba to
verify reports in the media about the disease.

Board member Jay Albarece (1st district), who authored the resolution,
urged provincial agriculturist Alson Quimba to verify an ABS-CBN
report attributed to the Davao-based Pilipino Banana Growers and
Exporters Association (PBGEA) that a fungus called Fusarium oxysporum
may have found its way to Bukidnon.

The fungus, also called Panama disease, is resistant to fungicide,
Albarece noted in his resolution.

He said it could be the same fungus that contaminated some plantations
in Compostela Valley and most recently in Santo Tomas in Davao del
Norte.

Quimba said earlier he has no information so far about the reported
presence of the Panama disease in Bukidnon’s plantations. He refused
to elaborate in September.

Bukidnon has around 20,000 to 25,000 hectares of land planted to
banana, he said.

Albarece cited that the province hosts a number of highland banana
plantations, which employ thousands of regular employees.

“The outbreak of dreaded disease in its (Bukidnon) fertile plateaus is
feared to bring about unthinkable adverse economic and social
repercussions to the entire province and its people,” he said, then.

“If the reports of the disease’s presence in the province are true,
the spread of the banana ailment should be immediately controlled and
contained to prevent the same from spreading to the unaffected banana
plantations in the province,” he added.

But Albarace said that if the reports were false, then Bukidnon must
immediately declare it is “Panama disease-free.”

He said that though there are environmental issues related to the
presence of banana plantations in Bukidnon, the province is not ready
to face an employment crisis if the industry players decide to stop
operations owing to the alleged existence of the disease.

In December last year, banana firm Agrinanas Development Co. Inc.
(ADCI) filed a notice of closure at the Department of Labor and
Employment, a move that threatens to displace at least 2000 workers.

Tago G. Sarigan, chief of the DOLE-10’s technical services support
division, said the firm cited “marketing problems” among others.

Another labor official, who asked not to be named for lack of
authority to speak on the matter, said the firm cited “high cost of
production” brought about by alleged widespread Moko and Panama
disease infestation in its banana plantations.

Albarece said that ADCI initially told its laborers they were closing
down because of Panama disease. But he said the company did not
confirm it in hearings with the labor office and the labor unions.

As of April, the company planned to retain only 850 of some 3,000
hectares of its plantations and only 1,000 of its 2,200 regular
employees. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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