Judith Mangalino, Sipocot’s Municipal Agriculturist, said at least 506.50 hectares of coconut farms in barangays Cotmo, Salvacion, Tula-tula, Vigaan, Anib and Calampinay were affected by the feared bug in Sipocot. Alteza, another barangay, is also suspected to have been hit by cocolisap.
Mangalino said the bug affected some 699 non-bearing coconut trees and 370 fruit-bearing trees in Sipocot.
“At first, we thought it was just brontispa, another bug that eats coco leaves,” Leonardo Manzo, Sipocot Agricultural Technologist, said.
Manzo said they started suspecting that it was not the usual and less destructive brontispa longissima that was infesting coconuts when they noticed that even the old coconut leaves started dying.
He explained that brontispa only attacks the young leaves of coconuts while leaving the tree still able to photosynthesize with its older leaves unlike the cocolisap that eats all leaves, fruit and even the topmost part of the trunk.
Franco Cesar Leonardo, also an Agricultural Technologist in Sipocot, said if left unchecked, the cocolisap might severely affect the economy of Sipocot.
He said Sipocot has around 24,129 hectares of agricultural land, 11,226 of which is devoted to coconut farms which produces and exports “kopra,”coco water, “buko” (young coco fruit) and other coconut products.
Isabelita Mariano, 53, barangay captain of Tula-tula and head of the Kontra-Kulisap group organized by Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in Sipocot, was the first to notice the presence of cocolisap (Aspiodotus rigidus) on her and her brother’s coconut trees mid December last year.
Mariano said the bug affected some four hectares of her and her brother’s trees. She and her sibling were one of the 79 farmers whose coconut trees were infested by cocolisap in Sipocot.
Mariano said she was glad that the infestation in her town was declared by the municipal agriculturist to be still in its early stage because she knows that she and her brother would risk losing around P20,000 of profits in the next harvest season this coming March.
She said that it is the first time that they had seen cocolisap in Sipocot which was known to be free of the feared bug that has devastated coconut farmers in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon, collectively known as CALABARZON (Region IV-A).
Manzo said the PCA and Sipocot local government believe that the bugs might have originated from CALABARZON and was transported unknowingly by laborers who brought back coconut husks from farms there or delivery trucks that cross from Northern Luzon to Bicol.
He said winds blowing from the sea on the Eastern side of Sipocot also aggravated the situation in coastal barangays Cotmo, Salvacion and Anib by spreading the wind-borne bug through the farms.
Mangalino said they are still assessing the damages brought by the bugs in terms of amount of profit lost by the farmers while continuously monitoring and documenting the effects on the coconuts.
Interventions like leaf pruning, burning and trunk injection of insecticides are being done in Sipocot to stop the bugs from devouring all the coconuts in one of Camarines Sur’s largest producer of coconut products, Manzo said.
He said most of the farmers are cooperative and have begun taking down and burning leaves while they injected insecticides.
Mangalino said her office made use of P70,000 budget it initially allotted for brontispa infestation while waiting for the LGU to allot and additional P136,000.