MANILA — Around 22,000 coconut trees infested with coconut scale insects or “cocolisaps” are set to be pruned daily to control the damage the pests causing.
Newly appointed Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Romulo Arancon, in a press briefing on Monday, said that so far, the government has pruned about 70,000 trees.
“As we go along, we will go on full-blast simultaneously in all provinces of Calabarzon,” Arancon said.
The cocolisaps were first detected in Tanauan, Batangas in 2010 and have affected about four provinces mostly in Calabarzon area.
About 2.1 million coconut trees (0.6 percent of the population) have been infested in low, moderate and heavy levels by these leaf-sucking insects in Calabarzon.
According to Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary for Research and Development Amelia Guevarra, low infestation may not be visible at a distance, moderate infestation is when leaves start to turn yellow until eventual browning becomes noticeable.
A tree is already heavily infested when the trees’ leaves appear burnt from a distance. In some cases, the fruit of heavily infested trees may also be covered with cocolisap, she added.
Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agriculture Modernization Francis Pangilinan, for his part, stressed the importance of containing the pests since the damage caused affects the income of farmers.
He said that 50 to 60 days after recording 1.2 million infested trees in May, the number of infested trees has increased to 2.1 million.
“The key concern is how to address the income of our coconut farmers. Because of this infestation there were instances wherein the entire coconut tree population in the farm has been destroyed,” he said.
To address the income, Pangilinan said the government will be mobilizing farmers to do the general protocols including pruning, trunk injection of systemic insecticide, spraying of organic pesticide and the like.
Aside from being trained, they will also be paid, he added.
Earlier reports showed that at least P400 million has been allotted to support the proposed six-month program to fight these pests. However, he said that over P750 million will be needed for the program.
Pangilinan, meanwhile, dispelled fears that the chemicals used to control the infestation were unsafe or have not yet been tested.
All chemicals used to control the pests have received certification from the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), the DOST said.