Engr. Eliseo Mangliwan, provincial supervising agriculturist, said the DA has forged partnership with the local government units, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) to prevent the leaf scraping insects from attacking vast coconut plantations all over the country.
Mangliwan said to eradicate the pests and prevent it from spreading, the group has formulated a four-pronged program.
The program consists of mapping of the infested areas; rolling out inoculation protocol and procedures in the affected areas; massive information and education campaign; and livelihood assistance for severely affected coconut farmers.
Recent reports from PCA indicate that pests have so far infected over 171,000 coconut trees in 25 provinces in the country.
“Fortunately, there were no reported infestations in the province of North Cotabato,” Mangliwan stressed.
But while the DA action is helping the province’s coconut industry, it is, however, affecting the distribution of oil palm seed nuts and seedling distribution by the provincial government through its plant-now-pay-later scheme.
Mangliwan said the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has issued special quarantine order No. 1, which bans the importation of palm seed nuts and seedlings from countries with reported coconut leaf beetle infestations.
He said as part of emergency steps, the DA has prohibited the movement of coconut and palm seed nuts and seedlings unless covered by transport permits from BPI.
The provincial government of North Cotabato is exporting palm seed nuts and seedlings from Papua New Guinea, identified as brontispa-infested area.
The provincial government has already spent P20 million in planting over 1,000 hectares of oil palm in the various towns.
Mangliwan said more oil palm seedlings are needed since more farmers have shown interest in planting oil palm.
The provincial government is aiming to plant at least 5,000 hectares of oil palm in order to establish a mill in North Cotabato.
“But with BPI’s quarantine order in effect, we are afraid that we will not be able to attain our target,” Mangliwan said.
He said he is asking the help of Rep. Bernardo Piñol Jr. (2nd district) to lobby the amendment of the BPI order, particularly in exempting oil palm seeds from the importation ban.
Mangliwan pointed out that the imported pre-germinated oil palm seeds have undergone sanitation and disinfection processes and thus safe from pest infestations, brontispa included.