Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
Action Alert: Support Philippine Activists
This June, Philippine health activists Dr. Romy Quijano and his daughter, journalist Ilang-Ilang Quijano learned they were being sued for libel--for the second time--by Lapanday Agricultural Company (LADECO) for their exposé of pesticide poisonings in Kamukhaan in the Philippines. Pesticide Action Network Philippines has launched an international signature campaign to urge LADECO owner (and political adviser to the President of the Philippines) Luis "Cito" Lorenzo Jr., to withdraw the suit.
Two years ago the Quijano's article "Poisoned Lives" was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Post newspapers, reporting the tragic story of an entire village poisoned by persistent aerial and ground spraying on the adjacent banana plantation (see PANNA's Global Pesticide Campaigner, December 1999). The Quijanos wrote of villagers with skin problems, headaches, coughing, all classic symptoms of pesticide poisoning. They also found several deaths attributable to the pesticides used on the LADECO plantation since the early 1980s. Dr. Quijano and llang-llang made several tours of the village along with a peasant organization in Digos, Davao del Sur, and obtained testimony from some of the 150 families. They also found that spraying of hazardous pesticide products including Dithane, Baycor, Furadan, Decis, Nemacur and Gramoxone had polluted the soil and the sea, killing trees, crops, animals and fish, and destroying the livelihood of farmers and fishermen over the years. Workers on the plantation also reported being paid very low wages and being subjected to hazardous working conditions.
In August of 2000 the company responded with a libel suit against the authors for 20 million Philippine pesos. That case was eventually dismissed, but LADECO has now filed another suit, this time for 5.5 million Philippine pesos, that relies on old claims already declared by the court to be insubstantial. LADECO has also filed a motion to cite the Quijanos for contempt, demanding that PAN Asia and the Pacific Regional Center remove an article about the Kamukhaan poisonings from their website. According to Dr. Quijano, the new suit "is clearly nothing but part of the harassment LADECO has been continuously inflicting on us and the villagers of Kamukhaan."
Dr. Quijano also states that LADECO coerced villagers to sign retractions of statements made in the 1997 study and recorded on videotape. He further states that LADECO conducted inappropriate laboratory tests capable of detecting only a single pesticide that was not among those named in his findings.
Dr. Quijano's study of Kamukhaan was first published internationally in 1997 and has become influential testimony for the restriction of certain pesticides and the promotion of safer and more equitable agricultural policies. In 1993, a transnational pesticide manufacturer, Hoechst, also filed a 22 million Philippine pesos suit against Dr. Quijano in response to statements made in a public lecture about health hazards of Endosulfan, a Hoechst product. After attracting much local and international attention, the case was dismissed and the Philippines government eventually banned further use of this product in the country.
Dr. Quijano is a Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manila, is president of Pesticide Action Network Philippines and co-chairman of the International POPs Elimination Network. Ilang-Ilang Quijano is a journalist in the Philippines.
As Ilang-Ilang Quijano states in a recent update and appeal for international support, "This is a concrete case, among many others around the world, where pesticides have been proven to destroy both people and nature. Without resistance, those who hold clout in both business and politics can easily suppress this hard proof and evade accountability."
Ilang-Ilang Quijano, Pesticide Action Network Philippines; email firstname.lastname@example.org; fax (63-2) 8050585.
Sources: PAN AP Web site http://www.panap.net; "Kamukhaan: A Village Poisoned," Global Pesticide Campaigner, December 1999, PANNA.
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.