• Govt orders quarantine of insect-infested crops

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    The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has issued a special quarantine order preventing the transport of various fruits and agricultural crops from four provinces of Calabarzon that is reeling from coconut scale insect (CSI) infestation.

    In its Special Order 1, BPI Director Clarito Barron on Tuesday noted that the CSI infestation has spread to mangosteen and lanzones, putting at 526,408 the number of trees affected to include coconuts.

    Barron said other crops such as banana, avocado, breadfruit, mango, sugarcane, many palm species, guava and papaya—in the absence of official validated data—may have been also infested by the CSIs of the Aspidiotus rigidus and Unaspis species.

    “Quarantine measures should be adopted to check, control and manage the increase of these pests from infested areas of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon [in Calabarzon], to non-infested areas,” the official added.

    Rizal is among the five provinces composing the Calabarzon region.

    Aspidiotus rigidus is the CSI species infesting some 2.1 million coconut trees in the region.

    Presidential Decree 1433 (Plant Quarantine Decree of 1978) and Executive Order 169-2014 put BPI personnel in charge of implementing and enforcing necessary measures to control and prevent coconut-tree infestation.

    Personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Coconut Authority, Department of Agriculture’s (DA) regional field offices, local government units and members of the military and police have been deputized to enforce the quarantine order.

    Barron said transport of mangosteen and lanzones should be authorized by a BPI permit to enable the fruits to clear checkpoints.

    The buck stops with the government, not farmers, in halting the infestation of coconut trees by the CSIs.

    The line was drawn also on Tuesday by Sen. Cynthia Villlar, who noted that the country’s agricultural leaders are not even utilizing the various ways with which to curb the CSI infestation.

    Villar said the government should not pass to coconut farmers the responsibility of solving the problem caused by the CSIs, popularly known as cocolisap, which have been infesting coconut trees in Calabarzon.

    “The cure should be done by the [DA] and we don’t expect [coconut]farmers to cure coconut trees because they are poor,” Villar told the Bulong Pulungan forum in Pasay City (Metro Manila).

    Among the options that the government should consider in order to solve the problem, according to her, are increasing the number of cocolisap predators and strengthening the immune system of coconut trees.

    “We have so many options to solve the problem but we are just very slow,” Villar, head of the Senate agriculture and food committee, said.

    She expressed dismay that more than one million coconut trees had been infested by the CSIs in Calabarzon (Region IV-A) alone.

    Villar called for a review of the DA’s budget requirements for outbreaks for all crops and preparation for standard operating procedures and protocols in case of outbreaks.

    The mandate of the National Crop Protection Center, she said, should not be limited to research but should include prevention, preparedness and response to outbreaks affecting all of the country’s crops.

    In prodding the government to move faster against the CSI infestation, Villar pointed out that Calabarzon accounts for almost half of the region’s coconut production.

    She said one-third of the country’s arable agricultural land, which is around 3.5 million hectares, is planted to coconut trees (68 out of the 79 provinces, and 1,195 out of the 1,554 municipalities in the country).

    “Coconuts are one of the most important crops in the Philippines. The country is the second-largest coconut producer in the world, accounting for 26.6 percent of global production,” Villar added.

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