In June, Malacañang issued Executive Order (EO) 169: “Establishing Emergency Measures to control land and manage the spread and damage of Aspidiotus Rigidus in the Philippines and designating the Philippine Coconut Authority as the lead agency for the purpose.”
The Calabarzon Region was promptly quarantined and measures to control Aspidiotus destructor rigidus Reyne, referred to as the Coconut Scale Insect (CSI), and Cocolisap was put in place by the Philippine Coconut Authority or PCA.
Latest figures so far indicate that around 2.1 million trees in the Calabarzon Region have been affected representing about one percent of the approximately 200 million productive coconut trees in the country.
EO 169 estimates that the coconut industry contributes in the vicinity of $2 billion to the country’s foreign earnings.
This in mind, it is easy to understand why the government has declared a State of Emergency in Calabarzon.
So how did this come to pass? Aspidiotus destructor rigidus (Reyne) is native to Sangi Island in Sulawesi, Indonesia, but somehow, it found its way to the Philippines.
According to a paper written by Mario Navasero, Bonifacio Cayabyab, Marcela Navasero, and Pablito Gonzales, “In the Philippines, A. rigidus Reyne is the third introduced species that went into outbreak proportion. The first was the Coconut buff mealybug (CBM), Nipaecoccus nipae Maskell that was recorded in late 1990. This was followed by Coconut leaf beetle (CLB), Brontispa longissima Gestro in June 2005.”
Navasero, Cayabyab, Navasero, and Gonzales also mentioned, “Three of the five species of natural enemies recorded attacking CSI (two coccinellids [Telsimia nitida and Chilocorus nigritus] and one parasitoid) are occurring in the Philippines.”
So, we have CSI predators that are native to our country. If they are in our midst, how did the CSI infestation get to become the massive threat to our coconut industry that it is today?
The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, in their report, “Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems (WIA), concluded that: “The existing literature clearly shows that present day levels of pollution with neonicotinoids and fipronil caused by authorized uses, frequently exceed lowest observed adverse effect concentrations for a wide range of non-target species and are thus likely to have wide ranging negative biological and ecological impacts. The combination of prophylactic use, persistence, mobility, systemic properties and chronic toxicity is predicted to result in substantial impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.” 1
Based on this, it is not difficult to conclude that the neonicotinoids that our conventional farmers are using have been instrumental in killing off the native and natural predators of the CSI, and if we continue with this practice (and what the PCA recommends) the CSI infestation we’re seeing today is just the tip of the iceberg.
We are losing our biodiversity at an alarming rate due to human practices. But what are our options? We all need to eat.
According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements or IFOAM, “Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.”
It is becoming obvious: our current farming practices are killing off our biodiversity, our ecosystems, and probably humans too.
Organic Agriculture can feed the world and it also offers us a way to protect and conserve our biodiversity.
In the Philippines, we have the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 or Republic Act 10068: “An act providing for the development and promotion of organic agriculture in the Philippines and for other purposes.”
Let’s support it. Let’s go organic. Everyone, including our ecosystems, will be healthier.
About the author: Vin Lava is an active member of Haribon Foundation. He is an organic coconut farmer in Lucban, Quezon.