CSI Batangas. UPLB isn't using its coconut. Are we using ours?

clip_image002MANILA: How aware is the #1 University of Agriculture in the Philippines when it comes to the big issues of agriculture? I'm not aware that it's aware, but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. I know UP uniquely enjoys academic freedom, but this isn't academic!

On 16 February 2012, Agham Party-List Rep Angelo Palmones warned that some 43,389 coconut trees in 7 towns in Batangas had already been damaged by coconut scale insects (Jazmin S Camero, congress.gov.ph). Palmones said in his privilege speech:

Combating the raging coconut infestation needs support and immediate action. The fear of a widespread infestation, if not contained and stopped is real. Provinces in nearby Batangas Province, like Laguna and Quezon are likely to catch the infestation.
There was no immediate action. Several months later, the Inquirer reported that those insect pests had destroyed more coconut trees in Batangas (Marrah Erika Lesaba, 8 June 2012, inquirer.net). It's the same coconut scale insects, the destructive CSI; even the scientific name is revealing: Aspidiotus destructor. The insects had damaged coconuts in the cities of Tanauan and Lipa, as well as the towns of Calaca, Lemery, Santo Tomas, Malvar, Agoncillo, Talisay, Laurel and Balete. More than 138,000 trees had been attacked, denying 1,286 farmers their livelihood.

That means that in about 5 months, there was an additional 94,611 trees destroyed, an average of 18,922 trees a month.

On 14 June 2012, or only 6 days later, the PCA claimed that it had contained the infestation and that it was "not expected to reach epidemic proportions" (ANN, ucap.org.ph). Was that a promise?
On 1 February 2013, it was reported that "coconut plantations in nine towns in Batangas are still grappling with scale insect infestation but efforts have (been) to control the spread of the insects, according to the Philippine Coconut Authority" (Czeriza Valencia, philstar.com). That was a promise unfulfilled.

On an undisclosed date, the Coconut Media Service of the Philippine Coconut Authority reported the following (pca.da.gov.ph):

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J Alcala and Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator (PCA) Euclides G Forbes vowed in a public forum to wipe out once and for all the scale insect now ravaging around 179,000 coconut trees in nine municipalities of the Province of Batangas. The forum was held in Tanauan City.
Promise? I suppose that forum happened after 2012, because now the number of trees has increased by 41,000 trees, which gives us an average of about 3,000 trees destroyed every month. I'll take that data with a grain of salt.

That news item said the Board of PCA had allotted PhP 10 million for eradication of the CSI menace. Forbes said the aim was to fully eradicate the pest and fully rehabilitate the trees. "We will first prune the tree, spray it with a solution of banana oil and perfekthion, and then completely apply the fertilizer to help the tree to recover fully." Have we spent the 10 million yet?
On 31 January 2014, even the coconut trees in Mt Makiling were now infested by CSI; see image (Pia Ranada, rappler.com). Magno Mercado, a coconut farmer from Los Baños, was blaming the government, saying, "Ang ating gobyerno, eh alam na may sakit, hindi agad nila inagapan na kumuha agad ng solusyon na hindi dumami agad 'yung insectong hayop na 'yan." Our government officials already knew about the disease, yet they did not look for a quick solution to stop the multiplication of those insect brutes.
The CSI beasts have now invaded UP territory. Today, 5 March 2014, I search the UP Los Baños website (uplb.edu.ph) for "coconut disease batangas" (including the double quotes), and the response I get is "NO RESULTS FOUND" (in allcaps, like that). I search again, this time for these 3 words, coconut scale insect, no quotes, and I get the exact same answer. UP Los Baños doesn't care what's happening outside the campus? I know of course that UPLB doesn't grow coconuts, but it's still agriculture and those trees are growing within a stone's throw of the campus. That is because much of Mt Makiling is under the jurisdiction of the University of the Philippines Los Baños. So, it appears that my alma mater has done on this matter absolutely nothing.

UP Los Baños has its Center for Technology Transfer & Entrepreneurship; doesn't this University know that in the coconut we have the healthiest oil in the world, and UPLB already has the technology to exploit it? I discovered that virgin coconut oil is the best natural oil when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure last month and I began to search on how to lower blood pressure naturally (read my essays in my new blog, High Blood, Tall Tales, blogspot.com). Coconut has saturated fats that do not oxidize; corn oil and soybean oil have unsaturated fats that oxidize and yield free radicals – and by that name alone, you know they are enemies of the human body. It is the unsaturated fats that saturate arteries and clog them, causing hypertension. The CSI is not causing hypertension among UP Los Baños scientists?

In the 1920s, American agribusiness began to demonize saturated fats (such as butter, coconut and palm oils) and angelize unsaturated fats (soy, corn, canola, sunflower oils) as heart-healthy alternatives (Randy & Leslie, coconutsecret.com). (The word angelize is my invention – fah.) Unfair competition.

Doesn't UP Los Baños know that with coconut and its byproducts alone, the Philippines can be #1 in Asia in terms of entrepreneurship – and therefore, of national development? Banana and pineapple are big exports, but they're multinational; coconut can be a much bigger export, and it's all national; even the poor farmers stand to benefit from the value chain.

UP Los Baños has under its wings the National Crop Protection Center, so what has this office been doing for the coconut farmers plagued by those destructive coconut scale insects? Save those coconuts!

Last month, some 99,384 coconut trees were reported infested by CSI in the towns of Lucban, Mauban, Polillo, Sariaya, Candelaria, Tiaong, San Antonio, Dolores, and Tayabas City (Ruel M Orinday, 21 February 2014, pia.gov.ph). That gives me 278,384 coconut trees reported damaged by CSI in Luzon since 2012.

2 years after Rep Palmones' privilege speech in Congress, the PCA has not contained the CSI infestation, and UP Los Baños has done nothing about it that I know of. If the technicians cannot solve the problem and the scientists don't want to get involved, it only shows that we Filipinos are not using our coconuts.

When will we start?

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