PCA eyes moratorium on cutting of coco trees

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The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said it is mulling over the implementation of a moratorium on the cutting of coconut trees to stop illegal logging in the country.

“As of this moment, we are looking at options on how to minimize the cutting of trees. We may issue a moratorium on the cutting of trees,” PCA Administrator Avelino Andal said in news briefing on Monday.

“We fear that the cutting permits being issued by our officials are being abused,” Andal added.

He said there are about 340 million coconut trees in the country, 20 percent of which are senile or subject for cutting. Andal said there is a discrepancy between the number of trees being actually cut and the number of seedlings being planted.

“There are more trees being cut than seedlings being planted. There’s a disparity so we would like to address that,” he said.

Meanwhile, PCA Deputy Administrator Roel M. Rosales said the government has already treated 2 million out of the 3 million trees affected by cocolisap, or coconut scale insect (CSI) infestation, in the province of Basilan. About 30,000 coconut farmers were affected by the CSI in Basilan.

“We have about more than a month left, so realistically speaking we can address the CSI by the end of the year,” Andal said.

Rosales said that, since 2014, they have already released a total of about P300-million budget to eliminate cocolisap in Basilan province.

“[The budget] involves not just the chemicals used for treatment, but also the cost of putting up laboratories for the biocontrol agents control production,” Rosales said.

“But major expenses are devoted for replacement income,” he added.

Rosales said the coconut farmers affected by the CSI were the ones tapped for the recovery and rehabilitation process in the province which includes pruning and trunk injection of trees.

“We pay them and, in reality, it goes back to the local economy,” he added.

Andal went to Basilan on Monday to determine further interventions needed to address the CSI in the affected province.

“He [Andal] will go to Basilan to determine what other rehabilitation activities will be done, such as replanting, distribution of fertilization, intercropping and animal raising activities,” Rosales said.

As of end-September, the PCA has started implementing a P104-million “emergency containment measure” to stop the spread of  cocolisap in Basilan, according to the Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OCS).

The P104 million will be spent for the application of the integrated pest management  protocol, including labor requirement for trunk injection and leaf pruning for the 2.1 million affected coconut trees, according to the OCS.

The IPM is the only protocol for cocolisap treatment approved by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, University of the Philippines-Los Baños and the PCA Governing Board.

The CSI infestation in Basilan increased rapidly to some 3 million trees, from 2 million trees, due to El Niño last year. Farmers had been affected by the prolonged drought since 2014. Cocolisap is known to multiply rapidly during the dry season.