By Felipo David G. Malcampo

ZAMBOANGA CITY, March 14 (PIA) – Cocolisap or coconut scale insects, accounted for the billions of pesos lost in the coconut industry in recent years has now already affected 51 coco farming communities in Zamboanga.

According to Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) agriculturists, there is a high risk that the local coco industry will be crippled if the infestation is not addressed immediately.

“I personally discovered the first case of infestation in Barangay Latuan on May 9, 2016,” said Joselino Mirabuena of the PCA. “It was only in 2013 when the infestation was recorded in Basilan province.”

“There are already verified reports that many infestations are already in the severe level,” added Rogelio Flores of the PCA, saying that one way to determine an infestation is observing the leaves turning yellowish.

The PCA agriculturists expressed their concern over the non-action of some farmers who, in spite of information-dissemination about the insect, have not reported sightings earlier.

“We started disseminating the information even before the infestation reached our areas, and we urged the farmers to immediately report any sightings,” said Flores.

The PCA must conduct insecticide injections for the trees to kill the insects. If this is not done in the early stages, more and more trees will be infested.

“We have a national protocol for cocolisap extermination. First we pluck away the infested leaves, then burn them immediately, second we inject systemic pesticides, and the insects that feed on the coconut tree will die. The chemicals will dissolve within 2-4 months, after that the trees will once again become productive,” Flores explained.

The best way to cure cocolisap is to do a communal treatment. “It will be useless if we do not treat all the trees in a particular area, otherwise, other trees that were undetected may have the infestation and can spread the insects back to the original hosts,” Flores added.

The cocolisap lives for about 28-32 days, and the females are capable of reproducing 50-100 eggs even without males. These insects then feed on the coconut trees and prevent the trees from producing fruit.

“If you encounter sightings of cocolisap, please report to us immediately so we can validate. With early detection, we can be sure to address this problem,” said Mirabuena.

According to PCA, banana, avocado, mango, and other palm and fruit-bearing trees are also favorable hosts to the insects. (ALT/FDM/PIA9-Zamboanga City)