The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Provincial Government of Bohol and local coconut farmers are bracing for the possible full-blown infestation of coconut leaf beetle (Brontispa Longissima) in coconut plantations in the province to curb, if not totally control the damage.
Emiliano Romero, Bohol Provincial PCA Manager,quoting the Asia-Pacific Forest Invasive Species Network data, said the coconut leaf beetle is one of the most damaging pests of coconut and other palms.
The larvae and adults of the beetle feed on the soft tissues of the youngest leaf in the center stem of the palm. Affected leaves dry up, resulting in stunting of the palm and reduced nut production. Prolonged attacks on young palms can lead to decay.
Romero said that almost all towns in the province of Bohol have been infested especially the newly planted coconut tree, however, at a minimal stage.
The PCA manager in the province said that farmers whose coconut plantations are affected by the palm leaf beetle were given parasitoid (biological control agent) cultured at their laboratory in Loay, Bohol to control the spread of the beetle.
According to an Asian-based palm research institute, biological control by using parasitoid, predator and entomopathogenic fungus has a good chance to depress population of B. longissima in the field. Pest control by using natural enemies is not as popular as using pesticide. Biological control would decrease the use of insecticides. Therefore, it has a good impact on the environment. Additionally, this practice has a long-term impact to depress or manage the pest population on coconut plantation in low level of palm damage.
Romero further explained that the coconut leaf beetle was accidentally brought here in the Philippines through ornamental importation from the affected countries abroad.
AREAS PLANTED WITH COCONUT
The province of Bohol has 104,000 hectares (has) of coconut plantation and increasing with the continued re-planting program of the PCA to include participatory coconut planting, coconut seedling dispersal, and accelerated coconut planting and rehabilitation programs.
In the coconut seedling dispersal program, the farmers were given coconut seedlings by PCA for them to plant while the participatory coconut planting program requires the farmers to plant utilizing their own seedling and they would be paid by the PCA at P45 per stabilized coconut seedling.
On the other hand, the accelerated coconut planting and rehabilitation program is another program of which the farmers were given the coconut coir based organic fertilizer.
Romero bared that in the re-planting program, the province has an average area of 1,200 has.planted annually.
In the present condition that the buying price of copra is P70 per kilo, Romero suggestedthat coconut farmers become entrepreneurs by utilizing the whole nut. They can sell eight months old young nut and process these into dried coconut chips. The nine months old nut demands higher prices. This can be an alternative from solely depending on copra.
Romero said the income of the coconut farmers in the Philippines have been greatly affected by low prices of copra in the international market which also dictates the prices in local markets because of so many competitors in the source of edible oil such as oil palm, soya beans among others.
He said that copra industry in the country is not locally but internationally market driven commodity with 70% exportation and only 30% domestic usage and as such if the prices are shaken the income of the farmers would be greatly affected.
Romero said this is a reverse situation in other countries where exportation is only 30% and the domestic usage is 70%.
The PCA manager said that the campaign to go against the illegal cutting of coconut trees has no letting up.
In fact, he said that there are three violators from the towns of Loboc, Sikatuna, and Getafe who are convicted.
In Loboc, the chainsaw operator was sentenced to two years of imprisonment and in Sikatuna the culprit has meted a fine of P100,000 and imprisonment of two years while in Getafe a couple was convicted of which the wife had paid a fine of P100,000 and the husband has served two years of imprisonment.
Romero urged the Boholanos to refrain from illegal cutting of coconut trees,and instead engage in re-planting program activities of the plant speciescoined as “The Tree of Life.” (Atoy Cosap)