Will coconut industry die due to ‘cocolisap’?
Our coconut industry will survive the “cocolisap” breakout as it had survived more severe infestations before.
In a lecture, Dr. Rey Velasco, former chancellor of University of the Philippines Los Baños and a noted entomologist, said that pest outbreak starts fast then slows down through the massive production of friendly insects like parasitoids. According to him, the average duration of pest outbreaks is five years.
Other outbreaks like “cadang-cadang” took decades to control. It started in 1924 and at its height it affected 30 million coconut trees. It is estimated that it killed 40 million coconut trees, this according to Dr. Judith Rodriguez of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Crop Protection Division in Guinobatan, Albay. As of 2007, cadang-cadang still affected six million coconuts although the infestation was limited to Eastern Visayas, the entire Bicol region, Polillo Island and Quezon province.
In 2012, the PCA appropriated P10 million for a survey of the trees still infested. In 2013, Rodriguez and her team identified around 800,000 only as still infested. With that number she considered the infestation under control. Since the infested areas are subject to quarantine, the transport of coconut products outside those areas are prohibited. Rodriguez told the PCA board that it may now request for the lifting of the quarantine order.
Also, from 2005 to 2010, “brontispa” wrought havoc in our coconut farms. It was first sighted on coconut trees along Roxas Boulevard. But unlike cadang-cadang, which was confined to three regions only, it spread all over the Philippines. It was controlled after five years when the government succeeded in its biocontrol by rearing paratisoids and through trunk injection of green-labeled insecticide named Actara. According to PCA deputy administrator Carlos Carpio, about 5 million trees were injected before biocontrol was resorted to. PCA finance manager Sherly Pascual told Secretary Francis Pangilinan that government spent only P31 million to control brontispa.
There are other pests that plague our coconut trees, like the mealybug and rhinoceros beetle, but all of them are under control.
With only the national government doing it, production of friendly insects would be slow. If only every land owner and local government unit will help raise biocontrol agents, then we will no longer need to resort to trunk injection of much criticized insecticides. It is only a matter of all sectors affected by the outbreak involving themselves and participating in putting up more biocontrol labs.
A boycott and ban by the foreign market due to the use of benign chemicals seem remote since nothing of that kind happened when Actara was used on 5 million trees.
Thus compared to cadang-cadang and brontispa infestations, cocolisap which has affected only 2 million trees at the most is a lightweight; the more than 300 million trees of the coconut industry would easily survive it.
—EUCLIDES G. FORBES,
Philippine Coconut Authority
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