The municipality of Roxas recently committed to a new quarantine protocol aimed at preventing the further contamination of its mango plantations by the notorious mango pulp weevil (MPW). They have decided to put up a new vehicle checkpoint that will replace the one in Langogan which is Puerto Princesa City’s side of the border, to have more control and resources in ensuring compliance to luggage checks.
This comes in the wake of the admission that despite the existing ban on transporting mangoes from the infected Palawan south to the north and rest of the province, at least six barangays of Roxas have already been contaminated and are now no longer weevil free. Abandoning the Langogan checkpoint and setting up a new one beyond the affected areas was a forced move if only to protect the rest of the north.
The policy debate on the MPW debacle of Palawan has long died down since the national and local governments tried throughout much of the previous decades in curtailing the problem with an array of interventions including technologies on eradication and mango processing. Palawan mangos remain banned and may only be bought and consumed within the province.
The industry, for all intents and purposes, is either dead or dying.
It wasn’t too long ago when Palawan’s mango sector was outperforming the national average in terms of production, especially after the province took to heart the national government’s campaign back in the 90s to invest in large-scale plantations of the high-yielding tree. A study done by McKinley et al in 2012 noted that by the time MPW kicked in and production when down by at least a half, Palawan farmers were already losing some $6 million in potential incomes annually.
There are no recent estimates on how much land area remains planted to mangoes, as there is apparently no clear policy direction on what to do now under the situation. But mangoes remain to be a much sought after product in the local markets, and technologies of processing remain a viable option to go around the MPW problem.
As the nearly four decades of MPW have already taught Palawan, getting rid of the pest, while technologically possible, requires more than just reactive solutions but more importantly strategic investment of resources. It is a requirement that doesn’t fit in the narrow time frame of policymakers who unfortunately are the ones who need to take the cudgels for the industry. It makes one think whether the Palawan MPW problem is a case of nature prevailing over man, or we are just plain inadequate.