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Intervention, not just ‘Glenda’, stopped cocolisap

/ 12:12 AM June 02, 2017

In the letter “Cocolisap vs coconuts” (Opinion, 4/18/17), Jose Z. Osias of BalikProbinsiya claimed that Typhoon “Glenda” was the major catalyst in clearing the cocolisap infestation in Calabarzon.

More than nature, active intervention by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the head of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (Opafsam) from May 2014 to September 2015, eradicated the cocolisap infestation in over 2 million trees in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) and Basilan.

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As head of Opafsam and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), he implemented an integrated pest management protocol under the Coconut Scale Insect (CSI) Emergency Action Program. In a mission report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) described as the move “commendable and praiseworthy.”

In the true spirit of people power, Pangilinan marshaled various communities—scientific, local government, private sector, grassroots civil society, and national agencies—into working together to stop the scourge that affected thousands of coconut farmers from the poorest sector of Philippine society.

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The multisectoral integrated pest management is a wholistic approach ranging from control to rehabilitation and periodic evaluation of results. This involves the following six-step general protocol: 1) harvest and prune affected coconut trees; 2) practice trunk injection of systemic insecticide; 3) release bio-control agents; 4) spray organic pesticide; 5) establish quarantine checkpoints; 6) fertilize and inter-crop. This protocol includes the strategic timing of operations in order to cordon off CSI-free areas while simultaneously attacking the “hotspot” areas with rapidly advancing CSI infestation. The protocol was backed by scientific findings from mapping, population surveillance and monitoring, biological and ecological studies, and experimentations of control tactics.

FAO said the Opafsam- and PCA-led cocolisap intervention, particularly the quarantine measures and the creation of a multisectoral task force, was proven to be effective in significantly and sustainably curbing the coconut infestation. In fact, the international body lauded PCA officials, saying “their courage and commitment to continue management of (cocolisap infestation) amidst many criticisms is great.”

While it is true that “Glenda” helped stop the infestation, it was by no means the major contributor. (Note: Not all CSI-infested areas were hit by Glenda.) Rapid ground assessment conducted by PCA and the University of the Philippines Los Baños showed that Glenda only managed to help reduce the cocolisap infestation in 425,600 trees.

Glenda, together with the integrated pest management protocol, reduced the level of pest infestation in almost 1.2 million trees. Due to the intensive implementation of the protocol, the number of cocolisap hotspot municipalities was reduced from 58 in August 2014 to only one in September 2015; this prevented the spread of cocolisap to the southern towns of Quezon, Laguna, Batangas and Bicol region.

Also, integrated pest management was never imposed on coconut farmers; and trunk injection, as indicated in the earlier enumeration, is only one of six steps in the protocol.

According to PCA-Calabarzon, then Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo officially endorsed neonicotinoid to Opafsam and PCA. UPLB Crop Protection Cluster’s Dr. Celia Medina said that “the probability of risk to humans and the environment is almost nil” as all nuts were required to be harvested before injection. Harvesting coconuts within 60 days of injection was also prohibited.

For a detailed report on the cocolisap intervention, check out the end-of-term report of then Secretary Pangilinan at: http://kikopangilinan.com/securing-the-food-of-100-million-filipinos/

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RACHEL GILLEGO, former chief of staff,
Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, 2014-2015

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TAGS: cocolisap infestation, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Typhoon Glenda
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