Safe, effective, holistic solution needed to stop ‘Cocolisap’ infestation
Agham-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People urges President Duterte to come up with a long-term solution to CSI (coconut scale insect) infestation, a problem that has been recurring because of the band-aid program adopted by the previous administration.
Three years after the first widespread CSI outbreak in Calabarzon in 2013, we have yet to see a comprehensive program that genuinely addresses the issue. Instead, the infestation has spread to Basilan which has the largest coconut industry (valued at P2 billion) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
While we agree with the moves of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to provide immediate livelihood for the affected farmers in Basilan, we would like to caution the new administration regarding the application of the PCA (Philippine Coconut Authority)-recommended Dinotefuran because of the pesticide’s potential environmental implications.
The emergency action program to control CSI infestation, first introduced during the Aquino administration, includes injecting Dinotefuran into coconut trunks. A highly hazardous pesticide by international standards, Dinotefuran has been proven to be an inhibitor of pollinators, particularly honey bees. When the program was started in Calabarzon, the chemical did not undergo rigorous evaluation to test its possible impacts as it was given an emergency permit by the PCA.
The pesticide’s effectivity has also been questioned following its inability to solve the 2013 CSI outbreak. A rapid field assessment conducted by groups like Agham, Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Pesticide Action Network in Tiaong, Quezon, in 2014 concluded that after five months of Dinotefuran application, there remained indications of CSI presence.
The planned application of Dinotefuran this October is alarming given its proven ineffectivity and status as a hazardous pesticide which can cause lasting damages to the biological makeup of the environment.
We support Secretary Piñol’s assurance to provide assistance to the affected farmers, but a comprehensive program is needed to help coconut farmers improve their productivity, ensure sustained production, and enhance their resiliency to ecological factors. We thus call on the Duterte administration to craft a program that:
- Provides farmers government subsidy for improving coconut production. This should include the active use of technology to monitor pest infestation, application of organic and safe chemical inputs, and introduction of proven farming techniques beneficial to both crops and farmers.
- Ensures coconut farmers have a stable market for their products to lift them out of poverty. The government should be proactive in supporting various product development efforts to process their harvests.
- Builds the needed infrastructure for processing coconut products. The infrastructure should be accessible to farmers.
- Gives land to coconut farmers as part of a genuine agrarian reform program.
CSI will continue to infest our coconut farmland unless the government comes up with a genuinely preventive, proactive, long-term and sustainable solution to the recurring CSI infestation and stops implementing palliative measures.
FINESA COSICO, secretary general, Agham-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.