Press Release
March 3, 2011


Senator Edgardo J. Angara called on government to use science and technology (S&T) to engineer resilience into agriculture to help the country grow and remain competitive even when confronted by natural calamities, such as the eruption of Mt. Bulusan, which has damaged up to 2,000 hectares of rice fields with standing palay crop of 10,000 metric tons (MT), according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

"We have to utilize the tools that S&T gives us in order to create a more resilient nation. We are often left at the mercy of typhoons and natural disasters, but with the proper approach we can lessen the impact of these events by being equipping ourselves with the tools to be better prepared," said Angara.

"Almost every time we are hit with a storm, our food supply is threatened. We need to become more resilient as these disasters come yearly," said Angara,

Angara said that reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) indicate that the rains that damaged northern Luzon last month affected 21 provinces have damaged nearly PhP 200 million worth of damage to the agricultural sector.

The now defunct National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that approximately PHP 5 Billion worth of damage was wrought on the agricultural sector from typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng last year. The storms also disrupted the nation's rice supply, forcing then President Arroyo to initiate imports to avert a shortage.

Angara pointed out that a joint study by Columbia University and the World Bank entitled 'Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis', which identifies countries which are at high risk for six major natural hazards: earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, drought, and cyclones, has the Philippines pegged as one of riskiest countries in the world.

Angara noted that the Presidential Coordinating Council on Research and Development (PCCRD) identified the development of food and non-food crop varieties for high yield, quality and nutritional value and at the same time, able to adapt to unfavorable environments and pests and the development of enhanced systems that will minimize adverse environmental effects as key national priorities for 2010-2016.

Angara, chair of the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) cited a report from the commission stating that in terms of R&D spending, the Philippines accounted for less than 3% of the total expenditures of the regions expenditures during 1981-2000 and that the number of R&D agencies has not grown significantly since 1996.

Angara said that the productivity level of the agricultural sector has been growing by 4% in the last four years, but is not growing at a pace to match the needs of the growing population.

A 2005 study by Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) showed that for rice to meet a growing populations needs, a 3.5% average growth rate in production is needed, which is almost 3 times higher than the growth rate of the rice in the 1990's.

The same study also indicated that the country has a "productivity crisis" in agriculture and agricultural research, development and extension (RD&E). The Philippines agricultural intensity ratio from the mid-1990's until now is at 0.4%, as compared to neighbors like Malaysia 1.1% and Thailand 1.6%. The underinvestment in agricultural R&D is believed to be one of the main reasons why the Philippines does not compare well with other countries in the region in terms of yield and productivity for almost all crops.

To be competitive the research intensity ratio of 0.4% should be raised to 0.75% by the end of the year and up to 1.5% by 2020.

Angara said that even with the improvements in agricultural R&D since the 1990's, there is still a need to pursue the strengthening of R&D systems, institutions, facilities and human resources.

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