ZAMBOANGA CITY: The invasive species of coconut scale insects has reached Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines and agriculture officials here expressed alarm over the infestation that is threatening not only coconuts but also other fruit trees.
Dr. Carlito Robares, chief of the Crop Division of the Zamboanga City Agriculture Office, on Friday said the infestation has affected the village of Baluno, with the insects attacking not only coconuts but also fruit trees such as lanzones (Lansium domesticum).
He added that the same species has wrought havoc on nearby Basilan province, particularly in Isabela City, where more than half of its 33 villages with plantations of coconuts and rubber and lanzones were invaded by the coconut scale insects.
Robares said they are monitoring other villages in Zamboanga City and has urged farmers and village officials to take immediate action or coordinate with the agriculture office to prevent the spread of the infestation.
“We are now working double time here and this is very alarming now because the coconut scale insects have reached Zamboanga City where there are many plantations not only of coconuts but also various fruit trees,” he added.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) earlier warned that the coconut scale insect infestation in Basilan may spread to other areas. It has formed an inter-agency task force to address the worsening problem brought about by the infestation in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
Rudy Corsame, PCA provincial manager, said the task force is composed of various government agencies such as Basilan Agriculture Office, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, Maritime Industry Authority, Department of Labor and Employment and Bureau of Plant Industry.
He added that the Task Force CSI (coconut scale insects) will quarantine all plants and seedlings coming to Basilan to ensure that no invasive species of insects such as the coconut scale insects would be able to enter the island.
Efren Carba, PCA provincial coconut development manager, said the invasive species of coconut scale insects has destroyed over 76,000 coconut trees in Isabela City in Basilan alone. He added that they are yet to receive funding to control if not eradicate the coconut scale infestation in Basilan.
The same infestation has ravaged the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon—all on Luzon island—and officials were trying to determine how the insects (Aspidiotus Rigidus) managed to find their way to Basilan.
Carba said the insects attack the leaves and fruits of coconut trees and there were reports that mangoes, bananas and other fruit trees are also at risk of infestation in Basilan. He added that there were other species of coconut scale insects in the province, but not the same species now wrecking havoc on coconut plantations in the province and in Luzon.
Carba said the life cycle of a coconut scale insect—small, flat with yellowish scale and semitransparent or whitish, waxy covering—is 30-32 days with the insect capable of spawning up to 50 eggs in just one week. Eggs are laid under the scale cover and hatch into a stage called crawlers that are dispersed by the wind, on clothing of people or on the feet of birds and other flying animals.
Carba said they are using biological and chemical spray to kill the insects and stop the spread of the infestation. He added that the species Aspidiotus destructor is endemic to Basilan and a minor pest of coconut, but the newly reported Aspidiotus rigidus is invasive, causing outbreaks and not known to be found before in the province.