DRONES. The Basilan provincial government has bought two drones to be utilized for spraying pesticides at rubber plantations affected by Pestalotiopsis disease in the area. Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman (2nd from right) says the drones worth P3.4 million were tested Wednesday (Feb. 8, 2023) in Isabela City. (Photo courtesy of Ronda del Basilan)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The Basilan provincial government has purchased two drones to spray pesticides at rubber plantations affected by the Pestalotiopsis disease in the province.

Worth PHP3.4 million, drones purchased through the calamity funds of the province were tested upon arrival Wednesday at the provincial capitol in Isabela City.

Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman said the drones will be deployed once the needed pesticides arrive.

“The drones will be handled by trained personnel of the provincial agriculture office,” Salliman said, adding that the equipment could be used by banana plantation owners in the province for free.

Each drone has the capacity of 40 liters of pesticides, he said.

Data from the provincial agriculture office showed that the Pestalotiopsis disease has so far destroyed 21,543 hectares of rubber farms in the cities of Isabela and Lamitan and nine of the 11 towns in the province.

Salliman said the areas affected by the Pestalotiopsis attack represent 73 percent of the province’s rubber plantation.

He said 7,262 rubber growers and 9,919 tappers are affected by the fungal disease, prompting the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to place the province under a state of calamity.

Pestalotiopsis, caused by the fungus Pestalotiopsis microspora, triggers leaf fall and the eventual death of the rubber plant. (PNA)