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PIA Press Release

Agri officials to meet with local execs to map emergency steps vs brontispa pest

Quezon City (1 October) -- Department of Agriculture (DA) officials led by Secretary Arthur Yap of the Department of Agriculture (DA) are meeting this with week with local chief executives and police officers to draw up the mechanics of enforcing emergency measures ordered by President Arroyo to contain and eradicate an invasive coconut pest that could wipe out the P40-billion coconut industry.

Yap said his scheduled meeting with officials of the League of Provinces of the Philippines and the League of Municipalities this Tuesday (Oct. 2) was in response to Executive Order No. 664 issued by President Arroyo ordering the DA to "undertake emergency measures" to prevent the coconut leaf beetle (scientifically known as the Brontispa longgissima Gestro), "from spreading in 68 coconut-producing provinces."

EO 664 was issued before the President left for New York last week, after the DA reported that the beetle now posts a grave threat to the domestic coconut industry.

"We are going to ask for the assistance of our local chief executives and we will actually craft the mechanics on how to enforce this presidential directive." Yap told senators in a recent hearing on the proposed DA budget of P25.9 billion for 2008.

Yap said he will also invite representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as well as the Philippine National Police to fine-tune the implementation of these emergency measures.

He said that earlier, Vietnam made the commitment to help the Philippines stop the coconut leaf beetle from spreading and causing more tree deaths in the country at last month's bilateral meeting between President Arroyo and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung in Manila.

The DA has put under quarantine Metro Manila and 26 provinces infested with the coconut leaf beetle, as part of these emergency steps to save the Philippine coconut industry from this invasive pest.

Under Special Quarantine Order No. 1 issued by the DA's Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), the department has likewise banned imports of palm seed nuts and seedlings from over two dozen countries with known or reported Brontispa infestations.

The provinces placed under quarantine are Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya, Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Aurora, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, Quezon, Rizal, Southern Palawan, Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Iloilo, Aklan, Guimaras, Bohol, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Zamboanga, Bukidnon and Davao.

Movement of palm seedlings, plants and germinated seed nuts from these provinces to non-infected areas is prohibited by the new BPI order, unless such planting materials are covered by a transport permit issued by the BPI attesting that these have gone through strict quarantine measures.

Imports of palm seedlings, plants and germinated seed nuts are also prohibited if they come from more than two dozen countries with known and reported Brontispa infestation.

These are Guangdong Province of Mainland China, Hainan Islands, Hongkong and Taiwan ROC, Maldives, parts of Southeast Asia, namely: Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam; and Parts of Oceania, namely: American Samoa, French Polynesia, Nauru, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Island, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, Western Samoa and Queensland and Northern Territory of Australia.

Imports from countries still known to be free from this beetle infestation are allowed, provided that importers comply with strict quarantine measures.

The coconut leaf beetle has infested more than 70,000 tall and 5,000 small coconut trees and an undetermined number of ornamental plants in the Philippines. In Vietnam and Thailand, the pest has caused millions of dollars in production losses and tree deaths.

This tiny pest, which threatens to wipe out the entire coconut industry if left unchecked, took center stage at the bilateral talks between President Arroyo and the Vietnamese premier during the latter's recent state visit in Manila.

Vietnam has successfully produced this parasitoid under laboratory conditions.

Upon Yap's suggestion, President Arroyo personally raised this specific but urgent concern on the country's coconut industry.

Yap had emphasized that the Brontispa infestation needs to be contained immediately because the coconut industry is now on recovery mode, having been the worst hit by the spate of super typhoons that devastated Bicol in the last quarter of 2006.

The Brontispa virus is the most recent scourge to seriously threaten the viability of the local coconut industry after a long running history of trying to control the dreaded cadang-cadang disease. (OPS/PIA) [top]

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