644,000 coconut trees to be felled in Basilan, Zambo due to pest

Coconut trees in Basilan. MindaNews file photo by Bobby Timonera

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 April) – The coconut scale insect (CSI), known to farmers as “cocolisap,” which affected farmers in the Calabarzon Region, has already reached Mindanao, forcing the eradication of about 644,000 coconut trees in Zamboanga City and Basilan province to contain the infestation, an official of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said.

Speaking in Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw, Roque Quimpan, member of the board of the PCA, reported that Basilan reported the biggest damage with 500,000 trees affected while Zamboanga City with 144,000 trees.

He said a massive cutting of trees in Basilan is ongoing while it has yet to commence in Zamboanga, pending the approval of the PCA board and the budget needed to implement the eradication measure.

Quimpan said the cocolisap outbreak reached alarming proportions because the PCA could not penetrate these areas to implement major interventions due to the peace and order condition.

“It grows by the day and can damage severely the industry in just a few months’ time. It can kill the industry if not properly addressed,” he said.

He added that some P606 million – P500 million for Basilan and P106 million for Zamboanga – would be needed to rehabilitate and replant the affected areas.

While the plantation areas are recovering, Quimpan said the PCA will provide the affected farmers with livelihood projects like dispersal of goats and chickens, or other projects that would fit the Muslim farmers.

Cocolisap is an insect with small, flat yellowish scale with semi-transparent or whitish, waxy covering. A female cocolisap lays about 90 eggs over a period of nine days and has a lifecycle of 32 days.

Three species of cocolisap have been identified in the Philippines: Aspidiotus destructor, Aspidiotus rigidus, and Aspidiotus excisus. In other parts of the world, 66 species of Aspidiotus have already been listed.

Aside from eradication, Quimpan said they also employ pruning, spraying of insecticides, and injecting the trunks as interventions to prevent infestation.

But the Save the Coconut Movement (SCM), in a position paper, opposed the chemical trunk injection with neonicotinoids because it is “banned in most countries” and is proven to be responsible for colony collapse disorder (CCD) among bee colonies, which may affect the bee industry.

It also said that the neonicotinoids is not 100 percent effective and could even cause illness, disability or death if the nuts from the injected trees are consumed.

“The coconut industry as a whole will suffer if foreign buyers will refrain from buying chemically-laced coconut products from the Philippines while the local industries that depend on coconut will suffer if a single death or disability will occur because of the consumption of a chemically-laced coconut,” SCM said.

The group maintained that coconut farmers can use biological control approach to combat cocolisap, for instance, employing a certain species of wasp called Paratisoid tetratichus, a fly-like insect that belongs to aphytis family.

The Parasitoid tetratichus, known as pest-predator, can combat cocolisap by laying eggs to its host. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)