GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines—A group of coconut farmers complained the usage of toxic chemicals in a government campaign to terminate the invasion of coconut scale insects, or cocolisap, saying the system is doing more devastation than good.
The pestilence is threatening to wipe out the country’s coconut industry with at least a million trees in the Calabarzon region alone infected.
President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Order No. 169 and allotted P700 million for a program to break the pestilence. Moreover, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) ratified the use of neonicotinoids to combat the pests.
However, Rene Pamintuan, president of Save the Coconut Movement (SCM), said studies made by the group indicated that the use of neonicotinoid, a class of neuroactive insecticides chemically similar to nicotine, is harmful.
“We already lost our markets abroad when it was learned that our nata de coco was mixed with chemicals,” said Pamintuan.
“Are we going to lose our other coconut product sales when the world learns about chemical injections to our coconut trees?” he asked.
Under the government solution, the chemical is injected to the trunk of a coconut tree to poison the pests. Pamintuan however said the poison spreads to other parts of the tree preventing nuts from being harvested and causing coconut water to be unsafe for consumption.
“Because of the infestation and the stated use of chemicals, buko pie of Laguna is now very expensive and manufacturers of coco products are now buying coconuts from Mindanao. That is why, we will never allow PCA to use neonicotinoids in our coconut farms,” Pamintuan said.
“My information was the area where chemical injection was administered on coconut trees was placed under quarantine. Coconut farmers there can no longer consume or sell their coconuts,” he added.
In a position paper, copies of which were distributed to media, SCM asked the government to consider the use of other methods, which other countries had found useful.
Romulo Arancon Jr., administrator of the PCA, said in an interview that the use of neonicotinoids was necessary in Calabarzon where the outbreak “cannot be addressed with mere pruning.”
“We are using an integrated protocol,” he said. “In addition to pruning, we need to do trunk injection,” he said.
Arancon believed the chemical that is used is “qualified in Japan and in the Philippines as environment safe.”
“There is no threat to bodies of water being contaminated and public safety is assured,” he added.
Arancon further stated that at least 2 million trees had been infected, which he said is not even 1 percent of the country’s 350 million coconut trees.
JEANE MARIE M. FAMINOGAN
LNU ABCOM INTERN