“Kiko-lisap” worse than cocolisap infestation says Quezon farmers
Lucena City — Farmers are holding the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Presidential Adviser of Food Security and Agriculture Modernization (PAFSAM) chief Kiko Pangilinan accountable for the poisoning of coconut trees and government negligence in areas infested with Coconut Scale Insects (CSI) or cocolisap. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) accused the government of inflicting hazardous solutions to the cocolisap infestation and putting thousands of coconut farmers and their livelihoods in peril.
According to the initial report of the environmental investigation mission (EIM) spearheaded by KMP and Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK) in Tiaong, Quezon, the trunk injection of pesticide neonicotinoid in CSI-infected trees did not remove the infestation as farmers revealed the resurgence of CSI in Barangay San Isidro.
“We have been duped by the PCA into injecting the poisonous pesticide neonicotinoid to our coconut trees, says Pagkakaisa ng Magsasaka Tagapagtaguyod sa Ikalawang Distrito (PAMATID-Central Quezon) deputy secretary-general Mar Silos. Mandatory injection of the toxic chemical has been imposed by the PCA without explaining the hazardous and long-term effects of the pesticide to the communities’ health and livelihood.
“Small coconut farmers used to earn at least P700 but ever since the infestation, we only get P100 in a harvest time. Aggravated by the spraying and injection of pesticide neonicotinoid, our coconut harvests are unfit for human consumption, worse it threatens the lives our families,” Silos adds.
KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano said that the government must conduct a comprehensive socio-economic impact assessment of the cocolisap infestation in Quezon province and other areas affected by the CSI. “The PCA arbitrarily imposed trunk injection in Tiaong, Quezon without giving coconut farmers alternative solutions to the infestation,” said Mariano as he called for a probe on the ‘cocolisap syndicate’ inside the PCA that is allegedly cornering the P750-million public fund for cocolisap infestation.
Toxicologist and University of the Philippines-Manila professor, Dr. Romy Quijano said that there is a high risk of pesticide contamination of water sources in the community. “The large concentration of pesticide neonicotinoid in the community increases the risks of contamination of common drinking water sources, which are relatively shallow wells. Children in the community are most vulnerable to illnesses that may be caused by neonicotinoid pesticides such as neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity and effects on the reproductive system.”
Based on the salient findings of the environmental mission, KMP, CLAIM and PAN-Philippines recommended the following:
- A thorough and transparent auditing of the PCA’s P750 million budget for the cocolisap control and management program. Without a comprehensive program addressing the enormous impact of the scale infestation on small coconut farmers, the P750-million will only turn out as another ‘pork’ and a subsidy for big landlords in vast coconut plantations.
- The conduct of a thorough survey/assessment on the socio-economic impact of cocolisap infestation in Quezon and other provinces affected by the infestation;
- The conduct of pesticide residue monitoring especially in coconut products, water resources and other relevant media that may be potential sources of exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides;
- The constant health monitoring of households potentially exposed to neonicotinoid pesticide;
- To strengthen the campaign to recover the P246-billion coco levy funds and coco levy assets and to oppose any attempts of the government to use the coco levy funds and assets.
- To support the passage of House Bill 1327 or the creation genuine small coconut farmers fund that will declare coco levy funds as public funds and not part of the general fund of the government and shall be used exclusively for the benefit of genuine small coconut farmers.
- To demand the PCA and the Aquino government to immediately stop the use of neonicotinoids in combating cocolisap. Instead of injecting toxic chemicals that is poisonous to coconut trees and other agricultural products, farmers, and consumers, the government should instead explore various options including ecological pest management that are already being used by farmers and recommended by experts.
- To strenghten the farmers’ struggle for genuine land reform through the campaign for the passage of House Bill 252 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
- To condone the payment of land rent, land amortization in CSI-infested areas and granting of production and subsistence subsidies to affected coconut farmers.
For its part, claimaints organization Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) spokesperson Nestor Villanueva said that coconut farmers will intensify and strengthen their demand to recover the P246-million coco levy fund and assets. ###
Reference: KMP chairperson Rafael V. Mariano, 0998-2898052