DA-7 reactivates 'Bantay Peste' brigades

By Luel Galarpe

January 23, 2019, 6:37 pm


CEBU CITY – In preparation for the looming El Niño phenomenon, the Department of Agriculture in Central Visayas (DA-7) has reactivated the “Bantay Peste” Brigades (BPB) in the region.

Agriculture Regional Crop Center chief, Dr. Bienvenido Acabal Jr. said Wednesday they have already sent advisories to the different municipal agricultural offices (MAO) in Central Visayas to reactivate their BPBs as pests usually make their attacks during the El Niño.

“These pests become popular during El Niño, that’s why we already advised the MAOs last December to reactivate their ‘Bantay Peste’ Brigades and start surveillance or monitoring in their respective areas, especially those with history of pest attacks,” Acabal said in Cebuano during the Kapihan sa PIA (Philippine Information Agency) forum here.

The "Bantay Peste" Brigades, he said, are composed mostly of volunteer farmers who have been trained in early pest detection.

Acabal said there are five kinds of pest to watch out for. These are rodents, rice black bugs, rice stemborers, rice tungro virus, and bacterial leaf blight.

“We have to start monitoring early to prevent an outbreak,” Acabal said.

No outbreak of rodents has occurred in the region ever since because of the presence of predators like snakes and cats, that prey on rodents.

Snakes in rice paddies should be left alone if possible, said Acabal, as serpents prevent the multiplication of rodents, but people should also be careful of snakes because of their poisonous venoms.

Cats, he added, should also be appreciated by way of caressing them every time they bring home rats, although sometimes, they bring home snakes.

“Cats should be given a pat or caressed instead of kicking them out of the house when they have rats in their mouths. They should be appreciated for ridding us of pests,” Acabal said.

Rice black bugs, which secrete a toxic substance that burns rice plants, on the other hand, have infested farms in Sta. Catalina and Kanlaon towns in Negros Oriental last year and have reportedly made its presence felt in Carcar City, Cebu recently.

“We have received reports of rice black bugs in Carcar, but we have yet to confirm these sightings. Should the reports come out positive, we would immediately apply buffer pesticides in the affected areas to prevent them from spreading to the neighboring towns,” Acabal said.

Although Central Visayas has not been infested or affected by rice stemborers, rice tungro virus, and bacterial leaf blight lately, rice farmers in the region must also watch out for these pests.

Acabal said 66 areas in the country are monitored of these pests including Negros Oriental and especially Bohol, which is the No. 1 rice-producing province in Region 7.

Meanwhile, as swine is the next biggest contributor to the country’s agricultural economy second to rice, the DA-7 also warned backyard and commercial hog raisers of the possible entry of African Swine Fever (ASF) to the Philippines.

Dr. Daniel Ventura Jr., DA-7 spokesperson on ASF, said the ASF can cause instantaneous death to pigs infected with the virus.

Ventura, however, said the ASF has no effect on humans who have eaten meat from an infected swine.

He said ASF is “enzootic,” or regularly affects animals in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa including Madagascar. It has also been reported in Europe and successfully eradicated from the Iberian Peninsula, but continues to be found in Sardinia.

Ventura said the DA is now formulating a response plan in the event an outbreak occurs in the Philippines.

“We are advising our friends and relatives not to bring in meat products from countries affected with the ASF to prevent the entry of the disease and so that we can have a good celebration of the Year of the Pig,” Ventura said. (PNA)