PALO, Leyte – Government is rushing to haul coconut trees damaged by last year’s super typhoon out of farms for fear of rhinoceros beetle infestation that could cause damage to surviving trees. Philippine Coconut Authority Regional Manager Joel Pilapil said that that the pest population usually starts to increase six months after a coconut tree is uprooted or sheared. “It manifest in areas with rotten coconut trees because it serves as their breeding ground. If they are blown away, they will attack remaining surviving trees,” Pilapil told Leyte Samar Daily Express.
The rhinoceros beetle has been in existing in coconut farms even before supertyphoon Yolanda struck, but its population could be very damaging. “They are part of the ecosystem, but their degree of existence is insignificant before. After Yolanda, this pest could exist everywhere,” he added. Pilapil said that the best way to prevent infestation is to remove the beetle’s potential breeding grounds in farms through massive clearing activities. Following the 90-day focused intervention designed to clear farms within the 200-kilometer distance from the highway, the project is now moving upland. “Aside from averting pest infestation, debris clearing activities aims to address shelter needs of Yolanda survivors. We will process damaged coconut trees to lumber to reconstruct houses,” Pilapil said.
As of end of June, 1.16 million trees have been processed into lumber through government-led operations. Massive clearing has benefitted 11,245 coconut farmers along Yolanda’s path. Cleared through the 90-day focused intervention program are 410,486 uprooted or sheared trees in Tacloban City and nearby Leyte towns of Palo, Tanauan, and Tolosa. The PCA has procured 1,125 chainsaws with 700 units are being operated by PCA. The rest are under the watch of local government units and farmer cooperatives. “The government is trying to find the fastest way to clear coconut farms by simply acquiring more chainsaws,” the PCA official said. Under the partnership between the PCA, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Department of Social Welfare and Development, six million trees are targeted for clearing in six months.
In a report, the UNDP said that 2,500 loggers have been trained to process logs with 60,000 people will be hired to “haul sawn trees out of forest.” The PCA reported that 33.90 million coconut trees in Eastern Visayas were affected by the storm last year. Of the total, 13.90 million were categorized as totally damaged, 9.04 million severely damaged, 5.69 million slightly damaged, and 5.28 million moderately damaged. In a study of the Bureau Agriculture Research (BAR), the damage caused by the pest “is almost incalculable.” The threat starts when the beetle reaches two months and feeds on the palm shoot, leaving marks of damages to new leaves. The beetle also attacks young palms in nurseries, according to BAR.
The PCA reported that 33.90 million coconut trees in Eastern Visayas were affected by the storm last year. Of the total, 13.90 million were categorized as totally damaged, 9.04 million severely damaged, 5.69 million slightly damaged, and 5.28 million moderately damaged. Eastern Visayas – the second top coconut producing region in the country – has 46.9 million bearing trees. About 72% were destroyed by the disaster. (SARWELL Q.MENIANO)