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Sen. Villar seeks industry task force vs. 'cocolisap'

Senator Cynthia Villar wants to sponsor a bill instituting a task force group to protect the coconut industry from the ravages of another scale insect outbreak, or any other type of devastating infestation.
"I'm studying a legislative measure to prevent a repeat of the widespread damage caused by cocolisap infestation last year," she said during the National Investment Summit for Coconut-Based Farm Enterprises held in Makati City.
"We hope to sponsor that bill this year," she said.
Coconut scale insect – popularly known as 'cocolisap' – is a pest that kills trees by injecting a chemical that neutralizes the chlorophyll in leaves, making them incapable of properly absorbing and converting sunlight into energy.
While there's no more cocolisap outbreak, the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization said some 625,000 trees are still severely infected by coconut scale insects in the following municipalities: Balayan and Calaca in Batangas, Bay and San Pablo in Laguna, Candelaria, Mauban, Sampaloc and Polilio in Quezon, and Isabela in Basilan.
Villar noted that in a hearing on cocolisap infestation, it was revealed that the Philippines lacks a standard operating procedure which was "... one of the reason that aggravated the problem.
"There should be at least a task force group that will be activated in the early signs of insect infestation or similar emergency cases," she said.
"The law will ensure that help is immediately available and a group will be in charge to manage and minimize the damage, in the same manner that when we declare a state of calamity in an area during strong typhoons," said Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
This task force group is envisioned as functioning akin to the National Risk Reduction and Management Council at the onset of typhoons, the senator said.
In June last year, some 2.1 million coconut trees, mostly in Region IV-A and Basilan, were infested by cocolisap. By August, the number rose to 2.7 million.
This prompted President Benigno Aquino III to sign Executive Order 169, directing concerned agencies to control the “massive infestation of scale insect,” which he said “poses a very serious threat to the coconut industry.”
Villar noted that the Philippine Genome Center of the University of the Philippines is doing a research on a stronger variety of coconuts.
"They're trying to find a variety that can fight cocolisap. They are also working on a healthier coconut base, that have the capacity to resist or mitigate the effect of any pest and at the same time promote better yield and production," she said. – VS, GMA News