DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 23 December) — A total of 40,000 hectares (ha) will be replanted to coconut trees in the Davao Region as part of a strategic rehabilitation plan after Typhoon “Pablo” devastated farmlands in the area last December 4, a government official said on Sunday.
Rex Buac, regional manager of the Philippine Coconut Authority-Region 11 (PCA-11), said in a phone interview that Pablo affected at least 101,000 ha of coconut farms in the region.
Ten percent of the affected coconut areas, he continued, were totally damaged, which will be covered by the replanting.
Constancio Maghanoy Jr., acting regional director of the Department of Agriculture (DA), said earlier the damage to coconut areas in the region has reached about P5.1 billion as of December 18.
Davao Oriental lost P4.2 billion potential income from its 84,000 ha of coconut farms due to Pablo’s aftermath.
He said its provincial governor, Corazon Malanyaon, requested for the support of the DA and PCA in rehabilitating the province’s coconut industry, as well as the entire agricultural sector, in a meeting last Wednesday.
Compostela Valley (ComVal) lost P855 million from a total of 16,000 ha of coconut farms damaged by Pablo, while Davao del Norte lost P131,000 from 2.6 ha.
Maghanoy added that coconut trees in the city and Davao del Sur were not affected by the typhoon.
Buac noted that the PCA is focusing its immediate assistance to the provinces of ComVal and Davao Oriental, as they suffered the most damages, losing 33 percent and 52 percent, respectively, of their total coconut areas.
He said a part of the PCA’s immediate assistance is the distribution of 70 chainsaws to the two provinces—35 each— to be used by farmers in clearing their areas of debris, concentrating on the felled or uprooted coconut trees.
Twenty chainsaws were already released, 12 of which were distributed in ComVal and eight in Davao Oriental, Buac said, adding that the deployment of the equipment is left with the local officials.
The PCA, through the Davao research center, has also distributed green muscardine fungus (GMF), which controls the plague of rhinoceros beetles (locally known as “bakukang”) that breed inside coconut trees, causing the plant’s deterioration, Buac said.
Powderized GMF is dusted in the breeding sites of active beetles to eliminate them.
A total of 53,530 bags of fertilizer for the rehabilitation of coconut trees, good for 13,382 ha, will also be distributed in the two provinces, he said.
Buac said the PCA head office has yet to provide the exact amount of funding to assist the typhoon-hit coconut areas in the region.
Buac said the PCA advised coconut farmers to practice intercropping so that they will have something to harvest for food within five to seven years, before the coconut trees will bear fruit.
“Our coconut farmers are really in a depressing condition,” he told MindaNews.
Before Pablo hit the region, he said the PCA had encouraged farmers to plant corn, coffee or cacao in between coconut trees to mitigate the fluctuating prices of copra in the world market.
But now, he added, “we want them to do intercropping because they won’t have anything to harvest in at least five years.”
Asked about the potential income of a coconut farmer, Buac said the price of copra or coconut oil has always been dependent on the dictate of the world market, unless it is value-added like virgin coconut oil or coco sugar, among others.
Whether or not the coconut industry is ready to mitigate damages that may be brought by another calamity, considering that the region is no longer “typhoon-free,” Buac said everybody has to take care of the environment.
“Everything was affected by the typhoon. It’s the causes of climate change that we all need to face,” he added.
As a part of the industry, Buac still prefers planting coconut, saying, “Can you think of other crop that is immune to typhoon like Pablo?” (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)