Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Secretary Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said on Monday some P750 million is needed to combat the coconut infestation “Aspidiotus Rigidus,” which has already destroyed almost two million trees.
“This is our detailed budget for the period of six months beginning June, broken down as follows: Phase I (June to August) is P460-million; Phase II, P204-million; and Phase III, P88-million,” said Pangilinan in a press briefing in Malacanang.
He said the budget will be taken from the existing budget of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). “There are some programs that are not yet to be funded right now. And then, if this is not enough, we will look for a contingency fund. So right now, we have sufficient funds to draw from in the existing budget.”
He said this will include injection of insecticides, pruning and burning, scale insect laboratory to produce these biocontrol agents, rehabilitation, surveillance, and quarantine.
Called the “Scale Insect Emergency Action Program” to be implemented for six months (June-November 2014), Pangilinan explained the program includes pruning and burning of drying leaves, which will be done in an “integrated approach.”
“Then we will do a trunk injection, after which there will be spraying using organic material, organic pesticide. After spraying, we will release biocontrol agents, which is the friendly ‘kulisap’, and then we do fertilization and strengthening or providing more sustenance and nutrients to the trees so that it will recover faster,” he noted.
Simultaneous with that, Pangilinan said, there will also be quarantining wherein checkpoints will be set up in key areas of CALABARZON with coco infestation to prevent the spread of the pest.
“We will also have fertilization, inter-cropping, livelihood intervention in order to address the damage and the loss of income of our farmers,” he said, adding that mass rearing of biocontrol agents, that is raising the friendly “kulisaps”, to help contain coconut pests and then continuing research and development.
Pangilinan also proposed for the creation of a “multi-agency scale insect control management task force” and designating the PCA as its lead agency.
He said the multi-agency task force will be composed of representatives from the PCA, Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
A command center will also be put up at the PCA central office in Quezon City to synchronize actions to be taken in combating the disease that threatens the coconut industry, he added.
According to PCA data, around 1,084,531 coconut trees were affected by the pest in the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Cavite, and Basilan as of May 2014.
President Benigno S. Aquino III earlier signed Executive Order No. 169 which directed the PCA and all concerned agencies to “formulate and prescribe” the necessary emergency measures and methodologies — mechanical, chemical, and biological — in the treatment of infested coconut trees and other host plants.
Under EO 169, the PCA, in cooperation with the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, DA, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), DILG, University of the Philippines in Los Baños, and National Crop Protection Center, with the support of the appropriate local government units, shall also be in charge of the declaration of infested areas to be under quarantine and the establishment of checkpoints and quarantine stations to prevent the transportation of unprocessed or untreated parts of coconuts, coconut seedlings and other host or vector plants from such areas.
The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) may deputize the PCA and the PNP and other law enforcement agencies to investigate and apprehend those caught violating the emergency and quarantine measures, including the confiscation of unprocessed/untreated parts of coconut, coco seedlings and seed nuts, and other host/vector plants.
No coconut leaves or fronds, young coconut and other raw or unprocessed or untreated coconut products, coco seedlings, and seedlings of other scale insect host plants shall be transported outside of barangays, municipalities or provinces duly declared under quarantine because of scale insect infestation unless allowed by the PCA.
The Philippines is the top supplier of coconut products in the world market, with the industry having an estimated USD 2 billion net foreign earnings.
It also provides livelihood to some 3.5 million coconut farmers all over the country.
According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), annual production of coconut dropped by 3.3 percent — from 15.86 million metric tons (MT) in 2012 to 15.34 million MT last year.
In its latest Non-food and Industrial Crop Quarterly report, the BAS included the infestation of coconut trees in Batangas by scale insects as one of the reasons only 4-million MT of coconut were harvested for the period October to December 2013, about 6.1 percent lower compared to 4.26 million MT in 2012 of the same period.
Super typhoon “Yolanda,” which battered coconut trees in Eastern Samar last year, and typhoon “Pablo” in Mindanao in 2012 were also listed as major contributors to the drop in the production.
At present, Pangilinan said around 60 percent of coco production were already lost due to infestation in CALABARZON.
If the pests spread to other coco-producing provinces like in Regions 4, 5, and 9, and left without intervention, he said an estimated P32 billion losses will be incurred by the industry. PNA