By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The coconut industry of Basilan, valued at more than P2 billion, is now experiencing a more aggressive coconut scale insect (CSI) infestation, prompting the government to launch in full force an emergency containment measure against the pestilence.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said that its 60-day emergency containment measure against the infestation, or commonly known as ‘cocolisap’, in the province is now in full force, with the rehabilitation program to follow promptly.
With an annual production of 163.2 million metric tons of copra, Basilan, which mainly relies on their coconut industry, is one of the top coconut producers in the country.
Basilan has been suffering from the infestation since 2014 until mid of this year due to the prolonged drought in the region, which had already damaged three million of six million coconut trees in the province.
“Expressing his serious concern on this [cocolisap] problem, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco has ordered the immediate containment of cocolisap infestation in Basilan,” Halmen Valdez, Undersecretary for the Office of the Cabinet Assistance System, a unit tasked to supervise the PCA, said in a statement.
PCA was folded to the Office of the President from the Department of Agriculture by virtue of Executive Order (EO) 165-2014 issued by then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
And also pursuant to EO 1 issued by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, PCA has been placed under the direct supervision of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary.
Valdez noted that the 60-day emergency containment measure is presently being undertaken to reverse the damaging effects of cocolisap in the said province.
She noted that in treating the affected coconut trees, the PCA will stick to using the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocol.
“The same protocol was used in Calabarzon [Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon] in 2014. Its efficacy in treating the infected trees had been tested when it was used to treat some 1.3 million trees infected with CSI in Calabarzon area. There were zero CSI hotspot municipalities in such area after using such protocol as of last ground inspection in 2015,” Valdez said.
“Thus, in an emergency situation like this, we cannot afford to experiment on other protocol,” she added.
About P104 million will be spent for the application of the IPM protocol, including labor requirement for trunk injection and leaf prunning for every 2.1 million affected trees, Valdez noted.
She added that there is sufficient fund not only for the containment but also for the rehabilitation of the affected areas after the 60-day treatment.
Valdez assured the farmers that after the emergency containment of cocolisap, the rehabilitation program for the affected province, cities and municipalities would immediately follow suit.
“It depends upon the extent of the damage of the CSI to a particular area affected, some recover after six months, while some take longer to fully recover. Pending this rehabilitation, we are closely partnering with the LGUs concerned and the Department of Agriculture to find alternative livelihood for our affected farmers” Valdez said.