Angara urges gov’t to declare ‘state of emergency’ in 65 coconut-producing provinces

from Philippine Star by Manny Galvez via abs-cbn interactive:

BALER, Aurora – Sen. Edgardo Angara on Saturday called on President Arroyo to immediately declare 65 coconut-producing provinces under a “state of emergency” to halt the massive infestation of coconut plantations.

Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture, told The STAR that Mrs. Arroyo should make the declaration so that emergency measures could be instituted to prevent the beetle infestation from further wreaking havoc on the coconut industry, on which 20 million Filipinos are dependent for their livelihood.

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Angara urges gov’t to declare ‘state of emergency’ in 65 coconut-producing provinces

By MANNY GALVEZ
The Philippine Star

BALER, Aurora – Sen. Edgardo Angara on Saturday called on President Arroyo to immediately declare 65 coconut-producing provinces under a “state of emergency” to halt the massive infestation of coconut plantations.

Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture, told The STAR that Mrs. Arroyo should make the declaration so that emergency measures could be instituted to prevent the beetle infestation from further wreaking havoc on the coconut industry, on which 20 million Filipinos are dependent for their livelihood.

He said the spread of the coconut leaf beetle (CLB), scientifically known as Brontispa longissima (Gestro), has become so alarming that it has infested 90,000 coconut trees in certain areas of the country – 40,000 trees in Palawan alone – and is feared to hit other major coconut-producing provinces.

The CLB is considered one of the most destructive pests of coconut and ornamental palms in the Asia-Pacific. It is endemic to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The infestation has damaged $17.8 million worth of coconuts in Thailand.

Angara said the plague is even worse than the kadang kadang which hit the coconut industry in the ’50s and the ’60s.

Aside from affecting the livelihood of 20 percent of Filipinos, he said the infestation could adversely affect the country’s top agricultural exports – coconut products.

CLB was first monitored in April 2005 in Metro Manila and spread to southern Bulacan, Southern Tagalog, Naga City and Pili in Camarines Sur; Oas, Daraga and Legazpi City in Albay, and Allen, Northern Samar.

Angara said young and tall palms in Boracay (Aklan), Malay­balay (Bukidnon), Davao and Zam­boanga and even in Aurora, his home-province, have been infested.

He said he has met with officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through the Philippine Council for Agriculture Research and Resource Development (PCARRD), for the crafting of a comprehensive, multisectoral and nationwide control and eradication plan against CLB.

In Aurora, the senator said coconut seedlings monitored to have been plagued with CLB have been prohibited from entering the province through Bongabon in Nueva Ecija, and Dingalan and Alfonso Castañeda in Nueva Vizcaya.

Angara’s younger sister, Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, said the infestation has affected the so-called Canili area in Ma. Aurora and part of Barangay Reserva in this capital town.

She said they are still assessing the extent of the infestation.

She said coconut farmers and municipal agriculture officers have been taught how to deal with CLB in a three-day seminar conducted by the provincial government and the local Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

“We have to do everything to stop this infestation because this will have a very big effect on the economy of Aurora,” she said, adding that the province produces the best coconuts among the coconut-producing provinces.

The infestation, according to the PCA, is sporadic and is reasonably controlled through sanitation, judicious application of pesticides, and use of natural predators.

In fact, the PCA has announced that a “friendly insect” is now being multiplied in the laboratories of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and PCA to be scattered in coconut-producing areas bearing the brunt of the CLB attack.

Though menacingly looking, the coconut-friendly earwig is a natural predator of the CLB.

About kidlat

Joseph T. Gonzales, aka Kidlat is the creator of Batangbaler, the website and online community of all the scattered Balereños and Aurorans on Earth. He is based in Baler.

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