Submitted by Ricardo Reyes
May 12, 2015 - 12:17 AM

Forsaken Farmers

The Philippines is an agricultural country, twenty seven percent (27%) of the total agricultural land is planted with coconut thus, and coconut production has a vital role in the national economy of the country. It is one of the largest producers of coconut in the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in 2009 it produce 19,500,000 tons of copra. In 2012 alone, Philippines exported more than 1.5 million metric tons of copra, coconut oil, copra meal, desiccated coconut, coco shell charcoal, and activated carbon and coco chemicals. During those days, coconut farmers are blissful for they earned much. But sometime in 2004 and 2005, the coconut industry in the country faced a crucial problem; the coconut industry was invaded by invasive pest called aspidiotus rigidus (cocolisap) and brontispa longissima (gestro).  For almost a decade now, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) the sole agency taking good care the welfare of the coconut farmers failed to contain said pests.

The coconut infestation is already a public knowledge; the farmers are always complaining to the agency because their income is tremendously affected and their coconut trees are dying slowly. The agency is suggesting a chemical against aspidiotus rigidus and brontispa longissima (gestro) but it is not acceptable to the farmers not only because it is expensive but also imposes risks to the health and to the environment. There is a beneficial insect that the agency is mentioning the parasitoid asecodes hispinarium and the earwigs, this sound better to the farmers but it is nowhere to be found. It is not available in the market. The clamor of the farmers is neither artificial nor superficial. It is real. It is manifested by His Excellency  Benigno Simeon C. Aquino by signing the Executive Order 169 declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (CALABARZON) and the island of Basilan, where millions of coconut trees are in danger of dying due to infestation.  If the spread of the above mentioned pest is not contained it may wipe out the coconut industry in the country. According to PCA crop loss in CALABARZON has reached Php. 179.6 million (US $4,081,818.00) while 335,091 coconut trees and 1,826 farmers are already affected.

The coconut farmers should act collectively now. They should learn how to propagate parasitoid asecodes hispinarium and earwigs the shortest possible time or to imports said beneficial insects in order to contain the destruction. The requirement of the Department of Agriculture in importing beneficial insect is very stringent. The farmers should not be cowed by the system. If the coconut farmers were able to contribute about $2 Billion in foreign exchange earnings and provide livelihood to 3.5 million farmers in 68 provinces of the country, perhaps, they can do something to curb the pests.
Most likely because of the intricate procedure in importation or production of beneficial insects it will require the services of the lawyer just to pursue the remedy to the industry. And if the circumstances permit, the coconut farmers can also file a law suit (class suit) for the inaction of the agency concern. A seven thousand five US dollar ($7,5000.00) is a healthy start for the farmers to remedy infestation and to find the people who are responsible for the inaction. The farmers just remember this time honored principle, Salus papuli est suprema lex (The welfare of the people is the supreme law of the land). Help us give the farmers a fighting chance by donating to their cause.

Enhance a Village, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating poverty in developing nations by educating farmers and helping them gain access to sustainable farming methods and technologies with an emphasis on good stewardship to the environment.  Your donation is tax-deductible.


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