As Duterte nears his 100 days in office, we in AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People pose a challenge to President Rodrigo Duterte to craft a long-term solution to the recurring problem of CSI infestation which has been the result of a bandaid program by the previous administration.
Three years after the first widespread coconut scale insect (CSI) infestation outbreak at CALABARZON in 2013, we have not seen any comprehensive program both by the previous and current administrations which can genuinely address the issue. Instead, the infestation has spread to Basilan which has the largest coconut industry in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao valued at P2 billion.
While we agree with the moves of Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol to provide immediate livelihood for the affected farmers in Basilan, we express caution to the new administration regarding the usage of Dinotefuran pesticide recommended by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for the affected coconut farms in Basilan because of its potential environmental implications.
The emergency action program for the control of coconut scale insect, first implemented under the Aquino administration, includes the trunk injection of Dinotefuran, a highly hazardous pesticide by international standards proven to be an inhibitor of pollinators particularly honey bees. When the program was implemented in Calabarzon in 2014, the said chemical did not undergo the rigorous process of evaluation to test its possible impacts as it was only given an emergency permit by the Philippine Coconut Authority. .
The effectivity of the pesticide has also been questioned following its inability to solve the 2013 CSI outbreak. A rapid field assessment conducted by AGHAM, Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Pesticide Action Network at Tiaong, Quezon in 2014 concluded that there was still indication of CSI infestation after five months of administering Dinotefuran.
The planned application of Dinotefuran this October is alarming given its proven ineffectivity and status as a hazardous pesticide which can cause lasting damages to the biological make-up of the environment.
We support Sec. Piñol’s pronouncements of providing assistance to the affected farmers but we need a comprehensive program that will help coconut farmers by improving their productivity, ensuring sustained production, and increasing their resiliency to ecological factors. We challenge the Duterte administration to craft a program that will:
- Provide government subsidy to farmers to improve coconut production. It should include active use of technology to monitor pests, application of organic and safe chemical inputs, and introduction of proven farming techniques beneficial to both crops and farmers;
- Ensure that coconut farmers have a stable market for their products to take them out of poverty. The government should be proactive in supporting various product development efforts to process their harvests;
- Build infrastructures needed for processing coconut products that are accessible to farmers;
- Give land to coconut farmers as part of a genuine agrarian reform program.
The CSI infestation will continue to infest coconut farmland unless the government comes up with a genuine, proactive, preventive, long-term, and sustainable solution to the recurring problem of CSI infestation instead of implementing palliative measures under a band-aid program.#