Gov't imposes temporary ban on endosulfan

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 06 2009 08:24 PM | Updated as of Mar 07 2009 04:24 AM

The Philippines has banned a pesticide widely used in pineapple plantations, the government said Friday, citing public safety concerns.

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza said he had ordered the immediate temporary ban on the importation, distribution and use of endosulfan, a highly toxic synthetic pesticide used on food and non-food crops.

"Our overriding concern is the safety of our people, especially the pesticide applicators, and the environment," Atienza said in a statement without giving specific details.

Endosulfan can be absorbed through the skin and cause skin irritations but can quickly pass through the body in small doses.

The department's spokeswoman, Marissa Cruz, said the ban was imposed after concerns were raised following a passenger ferry capsizing last year carrying a consignment of the deadly pesticide.

"The department has held a number of consultations with non-government organizations, the private sector, civil society and Senate," she said.

The Princess of the Stars capsized near the central island of Romblon in the central Philippines at the height of Typhoon Fengshen on June 21 last year.

Only 58 of the 850 passengers and crew survived the disaster.

There were fears at the time that the pesticide, which has since been removed, would leak out and poison local waters and fishing grounds.

The department said the fertilizer authority outlawed the use of endosulfan in 1993 but lifted the ban in 1995 to control the spread of diseases that were threatening the pineapple industry.

"Alternatives to endosulfan that are less toxic and environment-friendly are now available," the department said, without elaborating.