Amie Gabriel Lanayan, Bukidnon provincial agriculture officer, said the coconut pest Brontispa longissima (Gestro) attacked around 3,000 bearing and non-bearing coconut trees by sucking fluids from leaves of young coconuts.
Lanayan said this is one reason why the provincial government is keen on implementing its ban on the entry of plants and seedlings into the province.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has reported of B. longissima’s entry in Luzon earlier this year, forcing it to create the Brontispa Action Team.
Lanayan said the PCA, the Department of Agriculture's Regional Crop Protection Center, the local government unit of Malaybalay and the Bureau of Plant Industry are working together to investigate the pest’s entry into the province.
He said the PCA has already started contacting coconut farmers from the rest of Bukidnon for preventive measures.
But he is not certain if the pest has not yet spread to Bukidnon's southern part, where the bulk of the province's bearing coconut trees are planted.
Lanayan said they have an ongoing pest control operations with around 249 bearing trees, 672 non-bearing trees and 831 ornamental palms already treated with appropriate insecticides in the affected barangay, Kalasungay. Insecticides have also been administered to coconut trees in neighboring barangays, he added.
Lanayan said some of the farmers claimed they bought coconut seedlings from Davao City three to four years ago. But Lanayan did not discount the possibility that the seedlings have been smuggled into Mindanao from other countries.
According to http://asean-ipm.da.gov.ph, young coconut leaves appear burned or scorched resulting from the feeding damage of the coconut leaf beetle. B. longissima is an invasive pest introduced to the country presumably in early 2004 via importation of ornamental palms.
It causes great damage to seedlings and mature coconut trees and ornamental palms thereby killing the young spears and eventually the whole tree, the website explained.
The Food and Agriculture Organization Asia-Pacific regional office did not include in its 2004 report a Philippine situation on the outbreak of the pest in the region, according to www.fao.org.
B. longissima is one of the most serious coconut pests in Asia and the Pacific, the FAO website said.
Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. is yet to sign an ordinance passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last month regulating the entry of plants, plant materials and seedlings to the province "to protect the province's agriculture economy from threats of virulent plant pests and diseases."
Lanayan said construction of the plant quarantine posts in the province’s entry points will start next year. If pursued, Bukidnon will be the first province to implement such regulation.