Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato agriculture office chief, said the task force is now evaluating the extent of the infestation and studying various strategies to mitigate the problem in the area.
Legaste said swarms of black bug were first monitored as early as September last year and may have come from farming areas in Maguindanao or North Cotabato.
He said the pest has already infested palay farmlands in Koronadal City and nearby Tantangan town.
Legaste said his office is closely coordinating with the task force, which is based at DA's research station in barangay Bolol Mala in Tupi town.
He said task force also involves the Regional Crop Protection Center and the Philippine Rice Research Institute.
"We are looking at some effective measures to control this pest which has already affected the palay production in some areas," Legaste said.
He said the results of the evaluation and studies made by the task force will be endorsed to the DA Region 12 Director Abusama Alid and South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes.
Legaste said they will be used as basis for the crafting of strategic measures to combat the pest at the farm level.
According to a DA report, the rice black bug is a sap-sucking insect that often attacks rice plants. It is reportedly one of the most damaging insect pests and quite hard to eradicate considering its behavior and movement pattern.
"It stays in cool, watery area like the rice fields where rice plants grow and they become dormant when the weather is hot or cold. They stay between cracks of the soil when hot and spread to the leaves of the rice plant at night time," it said.
The rice black bug, which releases a foul smell when touched or disturbed, is reportedly most harmful during the dry season, the time when the rice plant starts to bear fruits.
The pest, which has a life span of seven months, usually sips the trunk of the rice plant near the soil. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)