Bakukang infestation hits AgSur towns

Oct 28-nov 3, 2010

By Cha Monforte

TRENTO, Agusan del Sur- Officials here have declared a state of calamity in infested areas as tens of millions of beetles the locals called as bakukang mysteriously swarm in and massively reproduce from decaying trunks of palm oil trees as outgrowers and multinational firms start replanting for the 30-year-old palm oil industry in the province.

“The bakukangs from cut palm oil trees are flying and threatening the coconut farms in nearby areas so we ordered stoppage of cutting activities and declared state of calamity in bakukang-infested areas,” bared Vice Mayor Ron Agcopra.

She said that worst hit by infestation are Barangay Tudela and some 4,000 hectares spanning this town and the nearby towns of Bunawan, Rosario and San Francisco.

He said that the bakukangs could also threaten coconut farms in neighboring areas of Compostela Valley.

This town  alone has over hectares of palm oil trees produced by multinational firm Agusan Plantation, Inc. (API) and over 20,000 hectares of private farmer-outgrowers.  Agusan del Sur hosted the first large-scale palm oil production of the Guthrie Plantation of the Malaysians in the late 70s.

Agcopra said that they have great difficulties in controlling the pest and API, which is now on the process of replanting, is spending P2 million for the P1 per beetle caught by farmers.

“The bakukang can’t even be eaten as natives who tried to eat it complained of bitter taste,” he added.

He said that the manual method of containing the pest cannot go on indefinitely and they are trying to shred and bury fallen and decaying palm oil trunks using government-owned backhoes.

However, officials here are complaining where to find resources for these disposal activities.

The vice mayor said that with the emergence of the pest that threatens the long-lasting coconut trees there is now a shift in looking up the palm oil industry that has been pushed by some stakeholders including the government in the recent years.

Besides the pests, palm oil tree cannot live without the high-cost fertilizer and its fruits are being bought at low prices after a costly harvesting procedure while constant use of fertilizer degrades the soil fertility, he said.

“Even in the area of local taxation, we’re only collecting real property taxes from farms of multinational corporations and not based on the finished products whose taxes are collected only in Makati,” he added. (Rural Urban News/Cha Monforte)



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