DAVAO CITY — The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is banking on the use of the natural predator Comperiella to control the infestation of coconut scale insects (CSI), more popularly known as ‘cocolisap,’ mainly in Zamboanga Peninsula and some other parts of the country.
PCA Board Member Roque G. Quimpan, in an interview, said that in March 2017, the agency estimated that more than 100,000 trees were still affected, of which 700,000 needed to be cut to minimize infestation.
“We started using Comperiella (in August 2017) in Zamboanga to avoid further contamination and as of now the infestation has been contained partly because of the buffer zones,” he said.
The buffer zones are in Zamboanga Sibugay and Siraway.
The PCA has also found ‘cocolisap’ infestation in the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (Calabarzon) Region with about two million trees affected.
He noted that the infestation started in Basilan, near the coast of Zamboanga City, reaching Mindanao by 2014.
Mr. Quimpan said the total budget to treat over a million trees in the Zamboanga Peninsula Region is P44 million.
Comperiella (Encytidae, Hymenoptera), an insect native to the Philippines, is a form of wasp.
“We have successfully produced in massive scale the Comperiella, which is a natural predator to the ‘cocolisap,’” Mr. Quimpan said.
Entomologists Mario and Marcela Navasero of the University of the Philippines Los Baños discovered the parasitic wasp in a farm in San Pablo, Laguna. The PCA research center in Zamboanga was initially used as laboratory for the predator. Satellite laboratories for Comperiella production have since been established in ‘cocolisap’-infested areas.
In due time, Mr. Quimpan said, the population of the Comperiella will equal that of the ‘cocolisap’ population, which would ultimately lead to the eradication of the pests.
He explained that the Comperiella do not harm the coconut trees and the environment, unlike pesticides.
Mr. Quimpan, who heads the PCA committee tasked to manage ‘cocolisap’ infestation, has issued a directive banning the use of chemicals.
The natural predators are also host-specific, he added, meaning when the ‘cocolisap’ is eradicated, the Comperiella will also eventually disappear as it will no longer have anything to feed on.
The PCA official said the distribution of Comperiella also involves training farmers on how to place the predators themselves.
“Had it not been for the timely intervention of PCA, the coconut commodity could have been out of our economy as it would have infiltrated the whole of Mindanao, which supplies almost 60% of the coconut supply of the Philippines,” Mr. Quimpan said.
Based on the January 2018 export-import data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, coconut oil remained the country’s number one agricultural commodity and 7th overall export product with a value of $133.99 million. — Carmencita A. Carillo