MASSIVE INFESTATION OF COCONUT TREES
Greatest Agricultural Crisis of History Looms
 
eastwind journals 107
By Bernie Lopez
eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com
 
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it is the nature of greed
to be blind to consequences
no matter how serious
 
Today, we are facing the greatest agricultural crisis in Philippine history. The Coconut Industry, which supports 25 million Filipinos (PCA), is slowly dying because of a massive insect infestation. Todate, it has claimed 2 million trees, mainly in the CALABARZON area and in Zamboanga. It is spreading rapidly and everyone is in panic.
 
THE DA-PCA HAS COME UP WITH AN ‘EMERGENCY’ CHEMICAL ‘SOLUTION’ TO SAVE THE COCONUT INDUSTRY WHEN IT WILL ACTUALLY KILL THE COCONUT INDUSTRY. WHY DOES THE DA-PCA INSIST ON THE CHEMICAL OPTION? SIMPLE, IT BRINGS THEM BIG BUCKS. THEY WILL RISK THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY FOR THEIR BIG BUCKS.
 
Of our 340 million trees in 2012, 40% are too old, leaving us with 204 million productive trees, according to Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) figures. Yolanda destroyed 33 million trees, and the infestation has so far destroyed 2 million, leaving us with a net of 169 million trees. After Yolanda and with the infestation, we have so far lost 20% or a fifth of our coconut trees. 
 
The irony is, the infestation is easy to arrest using inexpensive organic means. There have been several successes from the private sector. But the DA-PCA insists on a chemical solution. The chemical option involves the use of a highly toxic chemical injected into the trunk of the tree. Vendors complain that chemicalized trees produce sour juice, which is no longer sellable. When the whole world learns Philippine coconut has been chemicalized, the entire multi-billion industry will collapse. Exporters of coconut-derived products will lose their international organic certificates. Even our household is affected. You do not know if the coco oil you use for frying is infected or not. Since coco oil is used in homes and restaurants, the effect is massive.
 
Why big bucks? First, there is reportedly an allocation of P700 million for the chemical solution program. Second, the expensive imported chemical translates into billions in sales, if even just 1 million trees are treated out of the existing 169 million. According to an Inquirer report, the deadly chemical is marketed by LEADS Agricultural Products, Inc., whose Chair and President is Fernando Maldeva, a UP frat brother of Dr. Rey Velasco, a PCA consultant. Velasco is the former Chancellor of UP Los Banos.
 
ADDENDUM – reaction from a reader and reply
Reader, “Who would do such a thing?”, as if this heinous crime is something no one in his right mind would dare to do. My reply, “These people are so blind in their greed, they are ignorant of or insensitive to the massive consequences of their actions.”
 
The infestation began in 2009. Until lately, with its chemical solution, PCA had done nothing to contain the infestation. The private sector was forced to take the initiative, finding successful organic solutions, which the PCA rejected. Why? Big bucks? PCA wants to save face and be blameless by acting as the ‘hero’ in giving its last-two-minutes chemical solution.
 
President Aquino promulgated EO 169 which empowers the DA-PCA to find a solution to the crisis. (Note the numerology omen – 169 million trees left, EO 169). The use of chemicals is not stated by the EO. It is enough that the DA-PCA is empowered and has the legal means to use chemicals on the pretext of an emergency situation. The EO does not have an Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR) yet, but PCA is gung-ho in the big-bucks chemical program. There were rumors from unidentified sources that PCA will start its chemical program this June, which remains to be verified. 
 
It has been suggested that President Aquino should step in. The demise of our Coconut Industry through the use of chemicals will be blamed on him. The lives of millions of marginal Filipinos is in his hand. If he does not act, it will also imply he allows the big-bucks program in behalf of his people of DA-PCA.
 
A coconut expert says the insect infestation is a product of climate change. The warm weather has triggered an ‘insect bloom’. What is dangerous is – the insect also attacks fruit trees such as mango, another big export industry. 
 
A decade ago, the Philippines was the biggest producer of copra or dessicated coconut in the world. Now, Indonesia has overtaken us because of a myopic government with its corrupt agencies whose only concern is big bucks. Once, we were the sole producer of macapuno, now Thailand has a ‘Macapuno Island’ built by Filipino consultants. We have to urgently replace old trees. The culture of just leaving coconut trees alone and harvesting is no longer acceptable. We have to have an aggressive R&D program to respond to the market and to climate change. Quo vadis, Filipino? eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com
 
AGRICULTURAL PRAYERS
 
do not seek to understand incomprehensible mysteries
such as how and when the rain and wind will come
you know not the work of the Lord
 
rather sow your seeds wherever you have land
if you know not where the flood will fall
let the Lord decide your fate and just do your part
 
Ecclesiastes 11:1-8 
 
if you offer all to Him in your need
your poverty will save you
if a storm wipes out your harvest
sow your seeds once more
 
the Lord restores the ravaged fields
of those who labor in His name
sanctify the fruits you did not harvest
in the Lord who will replace them
 
eastwind 
 
just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down
and do not return until they have watered the earth
making it fertile and fruitful to give seed to him who sows
and bread to him who labor, so shall My Word
 
Isaiah 55:6-11 
 
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