CANAMAN, CAMARINES SUR – To halt the steady rise of dengue cases in Camarines Sur particularly in this municipality with over 80 reported cases in the last three months, the Department of Agriculture in tandem with the Tabang Bikol Movement has initiated the planting of citronella in barangays.

On August 12, 2019, the DA Bicol led by OIC Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla distributed 30,000 tillers of citronella, together with 1,000 pieces pili seedlings, 500 pieces grafted cacao and 300 packets vegetable seeds to some 300 beneficiaries of Tabang Bikol. The mass distribution was held at the Mariners Polytechnic Colleges in Baras, Canaman. 
Citronella works by masking scents that are attractive to insects namely carbon dioxide and lactic acid in humans.

OIC RED Tornilla said that, aside from its strong smell which drives mosquitos away, citronella can also be a source of income as the extracts are used in making essential oils. Pili and cacao are also champion commodities of Bicol due to the big demand for confectioneries, pili oil and chocolates here and abroad. Tornilla also reiterated the marching order of our new Secretary William Dar to help farmers double their income in three years through crop diversification.

Mayor Nelson Legaspi of Canaman said that as of July 31, there were 82 reported cases of dengue in his municipality, 60 of which came from the coastal barangay of Mangayawan. 
During the mass distribution, Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez discussed the techniques in planting citronella. The plant needs six hours of early morning sunlight. One to two tillers can be planted in the holes at a distance of 0.6 x 1 meter. It can be harvested after 8-9 months.

OIC RED Tornilla and Tabang Bikol chairperson Jimenez also signed a MOA along with the recipients of the project namely: Philippine Coast Guard Authority, Magarao People’s Council, Pili Peoples Council, People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors (PODIS) –Ilaw ng Kababaihan sa Canaman, Irayangsolong Agriculture Coop, and Isarog Garden Society.
Earlier this month, DA Bicol has turned over a citronella oil extracting machine to Tabang Bikol through its Chairperson Evita Jimenez-Tuazon.

Citronella is a cogon-grass look-alike which has various industrial uses. Its oil is highly valued as it is used in perfumes, soaps, spray, disinfectants, paints and polish. At present, the Philippines still imports citronella oil for industrial consumption. (Lovella P. Guarin)