“The government should think twice before implementing chemical methods and other knee-jerk reactions to combat the infestation of coconut scale insects, such as the use of dinotefuran, a pesticide found to be harmful to pollinators. Instead of abating the current situation, this step could further damage our coconut industry," said Finesa Cosico, Secretary General of AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.
The coconut scale insect, Aspidiotus destructor rigidus Reyne, has already ravaged more than 60% of the total coconut farming areas in the country and imperils one third of the livelihood of the coconut farming population according to the Philippine Coconut Authority.
The group has repeatedly urged the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and the comprehensive approach to the coconut scale insect (CSI) infestation while providing for immediate relief to affected coconut farmers.
Aspidiotus sp. or Coconut Scale Insects (CSI) are already wreaking havoc in Calabarzon and the Zamboanga Peninsula in Mindanao.
The BS Aquino Administration through the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Kiko Pangilinan announced a P750-million budget for the control of CSI. The said amount will cover the implementation of control measures including 1) pruning of heavily infected leaves; 2) applying of systemic insecticide to tree trunks; 3) spraying of organic insecticides to coconut leaves in slightly infested areas; 4) fertilizing of trees for faster recovery; and 5) introducing natural enemies.
These are mere palliative measures. The government should implement a comprehensive program to strengthen the capacity of coconut farmers to withstand pests, calamities and other natural threats to the coconut industry instead of solely relying on myopic or technical solutions to the current problem of CSI infestation.
Last weekend, an interesting hashtag kept popping up my social media timelines: “#BracketAKaNa”. While the concatenated words might not be familiar to many, it is a tag that was trending in the Twitter and Facebook lists due to the implementation of the Socialized Tuition System (STS) by the University of the Philippines. The “bracket A” that the tag is referring to is the tuition fee discount category that the new system has. Bracket A is referred to as the “millionaire bracket” since it offers the student no tuition discounts.
Applicants to the tuition fee system are assessed on the “paying capacity of the household to which a student belongs” which “looks at the income as well as the socio-economic characteristics of the household” according to the UP System website. The website also says that based on “the information submitted by the students, the University may grant tuition discounts and, in certain cases, monthly stipends” as assessed by the STS system.
Almost two months after Francis Pangilinan has been instated, agriculturists from the progressive scientist group Agham Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) challenged the supposedly food security czar to ensure self-sufficiency by pushing for genuine land reform, increasing subsidy in farm inputs and mechanization, and protecting local market from cheap imports. Support for agricultural research and development (R&D) directed to meet local needs should also be prioritized.
“In order to achieve food security and self-sufficiency, control and ownership of land must be given back to the farmers. While Pangilinan has made pronouncements that farmers are neglected and abandoned, he is yet to mention concrete steps on how to address the historical call of the peasants which is the free distribution of land,” said Finesa Cosico, Secretary General of Agham.
Last Monday, the Climate Change Network for Community-Based Initiatives (CCNCI) held a national consultation and workshop attended by different development networks and non-governmental organizations. They discussed ways to unite the different participants on how to deal with the impacts of climate change on the communities that they work with.
Involved in the formation of the network are the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC), the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC), Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes (PNFSP), Advocates for Community Health Incorporated and the Management Advancement Systems Association, Incorporated (MASAI). These organizations have been engaged in development work for several decades already and have teamed up so that they can come up with clear adaptation strategies and development projects that would address community needs that will arise from the effects of climate change.