A CATERPILLAR infestation that hit teak trees in Metro Cebu’s watershed prompted Cebu City Councilor Edgardo Labella to arrange a meeting today with City Agriculturist Joelito Baclayon and several pest control experts.

An initial report is also expected today from the team that surveyed the affected areas within the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL).

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“We are trying to find out what we can do about the matter or what spray to use. We still have to study the situation there,” said Regional Executive Director Leonardo Sibbaluca of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Labella, council committee on agriculture chairman, said the city officials will also visit the affected area to assess the damage.

“We have to prevent it,” he said. He worries the pest infestation will also affect some of the agricultural crops that upland communities depend on for their livelihood.

A team from the Ecosystems Research and Development Services or ERDS, the research arm of the environment agency, was sent to the CCPL, after residents of Barangay Toong, Cebu City observed the loss of foliage last month.

The teak trees (Tectona grandis) were planted at the CCPL through reforestation efforts beginning in the 1950s.

These of the deciduous type, which lose all of their leaves for part of the year. In tropical regions, these trees lose their foliage during the dry season.

This year, the loss of foliage has occurred twice.

A still unidentified type of caterpillar has eaten through teak tree leaves, leaving a lace-like mesh of veins.

The infestation was observed at the onset of the rainy season in the first week of July.

The problem has since been observed in four Cebu City barangays: Buhisan, Pamutan, Toong and Sapangdaku, covering an area of more than 100 hectares.

From Sitio Lamakan in Barangay Toong, it can be observed that mahogany, gmelina and other types of trees were not affected by the infestation.

There were intervals of trees with green foliage and teak trees with tiny brown-red branches.

Sibbaluca raised his concern over the health of the trees.

“Without the leaves, the food production of the trees is affected,” he said.

“As we all know, the process of photosynthesis or food production of plants occurs in the leaves,” he added.

According to Marili Ortiz, DENR representative at the CCPL, the loss of foliage had occurred in the 1980s but this only affected ipil-ipil trees. They did not do any form of intervention and the trees recovered from the infestation.