President of the Philippines His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) today to celebrate the National Year of Rice and to get a personal update on progress of the agreement between IRRI and the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA), which aims to support the delivery of research and extension services of the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP).
The President was welcomed by Dr. Emerlinda Roman, IRRI Board of Trustees Chair; Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI Deputy Director General for Communications and Partnerships; and the Hon. Proceso J. Alcala, Secretary of Agriculture in the Philippines.
“It is an honor to have the President visit IRRI during the Philippines’ National Year of Rice in 2013,” said Dr. Roman.
“IRRI and the Philippines have had a long and fruitful history together that has helped enhance the Philippines' excellent international standing and impact in terms of agricultural research productivity,” she added.
The President was given an overview of IRRI’s history in the Philippines since 1960 and an update on the collaboration between the DA and IRRI to support the FSSP.
During his visit, the President asked that his deep and heartfelt thanks be extended to all IRRI staff who welcomed him to IRRI headquarters, and provided him with a deeper appreciation of IRRI's scientific work for the benefit of the Philippines and the world.
IRRI’s Deputy Director General for Research, Dr. Achim Dobermann, said, “The Philippines is more focused than ever before on improving productivity in its rice sector to meet its rice self-sufficiency targets.”
“With the support of the President and Secretary Alcala, the Philippine government is providing IRRI with unprecedented financial support to ensure research and development outcomes help rice farmers,” he added.
In total, 101 IRRI-bred varieties have been released in the Philippines suited to irrigated, rainfed, upland, low-temperature, and saline environments.
“One of the IRRI-bred varieties released in the Philippines is a submergence-tolerant rice called Submarino that can survive floods brought about by typhoons, which are likely to become worse and more frequent with climate change,” said Dobermann.
A recent impact assessment study showed that Filipino farmers have gained an additional Php2,300 (US$52) per hectare from using improved IRRI-bred rice varieties.
In 2012, IRRI worked with partners in the Philippines to commercialize air-tight Super Bags that protect stored rice grain from pests and moisture and they are now available in more than 200 retail stores nationwide. The Philippines was also the first country to get IRRI’s Nutrient Manager for Rice Mobile and App that deliver site-specific nutrient management advice to farmers via their mobile phones.
“We are also working closely with Philippine agencies to develop real-time maps of rice production,” Dobermann added. “So, at any point in time, we will be able to tell the state of the nation’s rice crop.”
The President also toured the International Rice Genebank that conserves more than 117,000 different types of rice, including nearly 10,000 from the Philippines.