ZAMBOANGA CITY - The provincial office of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in Zamboanga City plans to reactivate an interagency task force that will address and monitor the pests in Isabela, Basilan.
Since its first sightings in 2013 in Barangays Cabunbata and Maligi, Isabela City, Basilan, there are now 76,315 coconut trees reported to have been infested by the coconut scale insects, or "cocolisap".
Rodolfo Corsame, agriculturist in PCA Isabela, said the interagency task force earlier recommended a quarantine to the Sangguniang Panlungsod. The latter immediately issued a resolution declaring a quarantine on transportation of seedlings and other products believed to have been infested with the pests.
Corsame admitted, however, that the quarantine was not fully implemented since the pests continued to spread, now reaching 38,000 hectares of coconut farm land.
Efren Cabra, provincial manager of PCA Zamboanga, said there were problems in the implementation of rehabilitation measures due to the delay in funds.
An allocation of around P600,000 was sent to PCA in Zamboanga in November 2012. Another amount of more than P1,000,000 was sent subsequently in July 2013, but Cabra said this was not sufficient to finance the laborers hired to regularly spray medicine on infested coconut trees.
Another alternative means to neutralize the scale insects is via predators artificially bred in PCA Isabela nursery. But this, too, needed funding, which PCA Isabela City did not have.
Cabra said they are prioritizing the spray method while the bug-like predators come in second. These predators feed on the cocolisap, but they will probably still survive since breeding the predators takes time.
However, Coconut Development Officer Cely Palomar continues to be optimistic since the weather will probably favor the coconut trees in Basilan.
She does not recommend cutting of infested coconut trees yet because scale insects will eventually die out, or have less chance of survival if continued moist is applied or given to coconut trees. Cocolisap pests favor dry season.
The Association of Barangays in Isabela Basilan said, out of 45 villages, more than 30 depend solely on coconut farming and its products as well as agriculture.
Reynald Bucoy, ABC president, said the impact will be immeasurable if pests continue to ravage coconut farms in their city.