'[T] he path to recovery is challenging. It involves assessing farmers' intentions and dedication. Requests for seedlings are carefully evaluated based on factors like the farmer's commitment and available planting areas.'
"Eight thousand coconut trees per year, for the next ten years." That was a bold declaration made by Tanauan City's agriculturist Sherwin Rimas, in an exclusive interview with Opinyon Batangas.
This ambitious statement marks the beginning of Tanauan's determined effort to regain its historical status as the coconut capital of Calabarzon.
Contrary to common belief, this prestigious title does not belong to the province of Quezon.
Tanauan City, under the leadership of Mayor Sonny Collantes, is embarking on a "coconut reforestation" project that spans a decade.
This initiative aims to plant a staggering 80,000 coconut trees within the city's legal land area of 107.7 square kilometers.
Tanauan, a first-class component city in Batangas, is divided into 48 barangays, with a population of 193,936 according to the 2020 census.
However, 13 years ago, the city's flourishing coconut industry fell victim to the devastating coconut scale insects, locally known as "cocolisap." Rimas affirmed that the city is now resolute in reclaiming its former glory as Calabarzon's coconut capital.
Add it the devastating Taal Volcano phreatomagmatic eruption on January 12, 2020 that toasted hundreds of coconut trees in Tanauan and within its immediate seven-kilometer radius.
The reforestation project is marked by its diversity.
Instead of focusing on a single coconut tree variety, Tanauan is distributing various types, including tall, mixed tall and dwarf (synthetic variety), and purely dwarf varieties.
The process of distributing seedlings follows strict protocols to minimize mortality rates and meet production targets.
Coconut farmers have recommended a triangular planting arrangement to enhance resilience against strong winds and typhoons, aligning with the city's primary goal of revitalizing its coconut industry.
However, the path to recovery is challenging. It involves assessing farmers' intentions and dedication. Requests for seedlings are carefully evaluated based on factors like the farmer's commitment and available planting areas.
The source of coconut seedlings is the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) branch in Lipa City in Batangas.
Currently, Tanauan City has 60 active and registered farmers from various cooperatives and associations across different barangays, accredited by the Sangguniang Panglungsod.
Besides coconuts, Tanauan City is renowned for its "Bagsakan" market, offering a variety of produce such as "pinakbet" vegetables, corn, and fruits like rambutan, among others.
Sherwin Rimas, a graduate of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños Campus, assumed office in February 2022 under the previous administration of Mayor Sweet Halili.
Threat of 'Cocolisap'
The coconut tree, often referred to as the "tree of life" by many Filipinos due to its multifaceted utility, is facing a grave threat.
The menace posed by coconut scale insects, known as cocolisap, not only endangers the coconut tree itself but also jeopardizes the livelihoods of thousands of Filipino farmers who depend on it.
Since the emergence of cocolisap infestation in 2010, little progress has been made in controlling its spread.
Cocolisap inflicts severe damage on coconut trees by voraciously consuming their leaves, fruits, and flowers, leaving behind only the trunk.
By the time this devastation becomes evident, the tree is beyond recovery, and its only value lies in coco-lumber.
This infestation leaves affected coconut farmers feeling helpless.
Recently, the government recognized the severity of the problem and declared a state of calamity in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) region and Basilan.
It was estimated that one million coconut trees have suffered damage, amounting to a total value loss of P33 billion.
A substantial program, costing approximately P750 million, has finally been initiated to contain the infestation, resulting in significant progress. (OpBats/IAm)
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