Group says coconut pest infestation in Batangas need long-term solutions

AGRICULTURISTS from Kalikasan Partylist urged the government to implement long-term solutions to resolve the problem of massive coconut scale infestation in Southern Tagalog and and to provide immediate financial support to the affected coconut farmers.

About 115,000 coconut trees planted in 1,700 hectares of land in the region are reported to be infested with the Aspidiotus destructor Signoret  or the coconut scale insect.

Batangas province suffered the heaviest state of infestation with 41 barangays and seven municipalities affected to date.

The coconut scale pest is one of the most destructive armored scale insects that infest coconut and other plant species, including oil palm, cucumber, tomato, banana. It can quickly grow and spread through colonies, decrease crop yields and eventually kill the plants that it infests.

Finesa Cosico, an agriculturist and convener of Kalikasan Partylist, stressed the need for the national government to adopt long-term solutions to prevent such damaging infestations.

“Considering that coconut is a major agricultural export of the country and is planted on one-third of Philippine agricultural lands, national agencies should be ready with mitigation and control measures to prevent more possible infestations, Cosico said.

“An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for coconut lands must be institutionalized. In IPM, pest control strategies should not rely on single solutions but combination of various approaches such as cultural management (such as inter-cropping) and biological control (such as the use of natural predators that can regulate the population of pests).

Many of these strategies remain untapped and unused at the national level,” she said.

Cosico also stressed the need for more budget allotments and research and development for the production, development and dissemination of appropriate technologies and strategies to improve the ailing coconut industry.

Cosico also stressed the need for more government support for coconut farmers affected by the  infestation.

“Most of the 3.5 million of coconut farmers belong to poor communities affected by  low productivity even before the infestation set in. Compared to rice and sugarcane, coconut plants have the lowest farm value and therefore coconut farmers are among the most hard presses to recover from the losses,” she said.

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