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ECO-FRIENDLY AYALA FIRM SEEN AS MODEL FOR WATERSHED FARM
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     avao City,Philippines - We should not go bananas over fears large banana plantations in the third district could poison with massive chemical applications our watershed areas that feed the aquifer where we get out drinking water. Especially if we have banana farms like those run by the TriStar Group of Banana Companies.

TriStar, the flagship company of businessman Jesus V. Ayala, grows organic upland Cavendish bananas without the deadly chemical fertilizers and pesticides that fuel other banana companies to put profit over environmental concerns.

LONG DEBATE

Environmentalist groups here have been locked in a protracted battle with banana companies over threats to the watershed areas which are heavy recharge zones for the Dumoy aquifer where the city pumps out is drinking water. In Tamayong, Calinan, Pastor Apollo Quibuloy is leading his flock in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ the Name Above Every Name in praying, and in sending protest letters to the city council, for a stop to aerial spraying. In several barangays in the watershed areas, residents complain of respiratory diseases as plantations gobble up buffer zones to plant bananas a foot away from houses and intrude into critical slopes. But the debate boils down heavily on the most serious threat to the environment: massive use of pesticides and other deadly chemicals to control plant pests and diseases.
Story from Mindanao Insider Daily by : Roger M. Balanza
EcoFriendlynews_Oct2005
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CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY

Mike Ayala, son of JVA who has taken over TriStar as chairman, said the TriStar experience has shown large-scale agricultural plantations can grow in environmentally-sensitive areas with corporate responsibility balancing profit and nature on an even keel. Tristar grows its top-grade bananas with 85 percent organic fertilizer. Pest and weed control make use of company-devised secrets from a decade old study that showed pro-nature farm practices are as effective as using deadly chemicals. Although the company subscribes to medically confirmed studies that fungicide that controls banana leaf diseases is harmless, it has abandoned aerial spraying and adopted ground-based mechanical spray applications –all for the sake of calming down public fears.
MODEL FARM

Ayala and William Leh, Tristar President and Chief Executive Officer, on Friday led city administrator Wendell Avisado and councilors Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, Conrado baluran and Gerald Bangoy in a tour of the TriStar farm in Tagakpan, Sirib, Subasta and Manuel Guianga in Calinan. Amid fears of threat to the environment, the tour afforded Cabling, chair of the environmental committee, Baluran of Agriculture and Bangoy of Health, the other side of the coin: Tristar could be the model farm that would calm down public
apprehension agricultural intrusion in the watershed areas could damage their water sources.

TRIAL-AND-ERROR

Ayala said that Tristar miracle was not achieved overnight but went through more than a decade of a painfully slow trial-and-error routine anchored on the company mission that profit could be gained without jeopardizing the environment.

The Ayalas are not new in the industry. The JVA Group of Companies, Tristar’s predecessor, is among the trailblazers of the lowland banana industry that placed Davao region in the world of sweet bananas. Tristar is among several companies which has locations in Calinan and other upland districts, as demand for sweet upland Cavendish bananas soars. Industry figures show that about 16,000 hectares in Davao City have been planted to bananas with AMS accounting for 2,600; Stanfilco, 656; Lapanday, 1100 and Tristar, 656.
TRUST AND CONFIDENCE

Despite being a minor player in the industry, Leh said Tristar has dominated the local organic banana export to Japan where its bananas have a special niche in the current vogue for naturally-grown fruits. Organic bananas are more expensive in Japan, where Tristar exports all its products. Leh said Tristar has placed Davao City bananas in the highest level of the organic fruits category –and the company is responding with equal intensity to the trust given by the Japanese market. He explained that in Japan, distributors in the organic product markets adopt what is called as the “rule of traceability,”
where sellers certify their products but place the burden on the suppliers if end-users raise complaints.

DAVAO’S PRIDE

Some supermarkets have my photo with the banana displays so the buyers would know who is raising the bananas, he said. Organically-grown Davao City bananas is trusted by the Japanese, said Leh who adds this trust is behind TriStar’s continuing acceptability in the Japanese market. The tour on the Tristar farms is supposed to be a subject that should be widely discussed but Ayala and Leh asked this writer that there are such things as corporate secrets.

TRADED SECRETS

So the most that we could probably reveal is what we saw that can be described without the basics: Tristar uses only organic fertilizer that the company itself produces, that mealy bug infestation can be minimized with use of harmful detergent, that scaring beetles can be lured away from the banana fruits with an innocent plant and that corn borers are as happy if given an alternate feeding ground without attacking the banana plants. The biggest argument Tristar could be a model farm in the watershed area lies on a creature that you could not find in other banana farms: frogs One of the most sensitive denizens of this earth, frogs croaked, leaped and danced all over the farm under the shades of the banana leaves.