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Davao coconut farmers oppose use of chemicals

A FARMERS’ movement in Davao City is up in arms against the use of Neonicotinoids chemicals for injection into coconut trunks to prevent spread of the coconut scale insects more popularly known as “cocolisap” infestation because they say this will cause collapse of the coconut industry, certified organic farms and the beekeeping industry.

Save the Coconut Movement (SCM), a group composed of coconut farmers, landowners, organic farmers and bee farmers, called for a total ban on the use of chemical pesticides in affected areas.

In a statement, SCM co-convenor Dennis Lainez said the coconut industry will suffer if foreign buyers will refrain from buying chemically-laced coconut products from the Philippines, adding that local industries that depend on coconut will suffer if a single death or disability will occur because of the consumption of a chemically-laced coconut.

The group said Neonicotinoids chemicals are either banned or restricted in other countries.

According to Lainez, Neonicotinoids will kill the bee industry and displace thousands of workers, businesses and investment therein. He also emphasized that Neonicotinoids are not 100% effective, saying “the chemical was tested before and showed dismal results.”

Although Davao region remains free from “cocolisap”, Edgar Eugenio, founder of SCM, said in an interview that the region is at risk, thus there is still a need to prevent the spread of “cocolisap” through other means.

Cocolisap infestation is currently concentrated in Calabarzon, with an outbreak reported in Isabela City, Basilan. SCM reported that infected trees in Calabarzon alone are estimated at 1.3 million and rose to 2 million in April 2014 and is spreading to areas of Quezon province.

SCM said coconut tree population in the Philippines totaled 350 million before Typhoon Yolanda hit the country in November 2013. The population declined to 328 million after Yolanda. Reportedly, the extent of damage caused by scale insects is pegged at 0.6 percent of the total coconut trees.

SCM was worried that if the government will push through with its target of injecting Neonicotinoid of the 0.6% coconuts or two million coconut palms out of the total 328 million coconut palms all over the country may mean small in terms of percentage but the absolute number 2 million is big.

“It may spell disaster bigger than the cocolisap infestation. If the importers of coconut products will learn that Neonicotinoid trunk injection had been done, they might stop buying or importing our coconut products. The buyers abroad will be frightened knowing that the persistence of Neonicotinoid may last from 40 days to six years. They might use the upper value (6 years). It implies that they may stop importing coconuts from us for the next 6-7 years,” Eugenio said.

Eugenio said buyers might even stop buying Philippine coconuts forever just like the Nata de Coco case. He noted that Nata de Coco lost markets to Thailand when it was discovered that some of the exports have chemicals in them.

They will also stop buying buko and other coco products, he said. Eugenio note that Philippines coconut exports is US$2-billion money inflow at P11.54 trillion based from the Gross Domestic Product report of 2013. He said Virgin Coconut Oil Exports is at US$54-million.

This also spells worse if there is no sale of coconuts in predominantly coco-based rural communities, as farmers will also lose jobs in the coconut farms; eventually it will also result to a lot of social implications.

SCM suggests allowing nature’s intervention to have its way and help the coconuts recover nutritionally. The movement is supporting other steps such as pruning, organic spraying, biological control and organic fertilization. PNA

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