By Rudy Fernandez
Saturday, May 10, 2008
An economic adviser of President Arroyo has pointed to the country’s growing population as the main cause of the rice shortage.
Speaking at the 18th National Convention of the Philippine Association of Research Managers Inc. (PHILARM) at the Casablanca Hotel in Legazpi City, Albay Gov. Jose Salceda said the country’s demand for food has risen because there are more mouths to feed, but agricultural lands to cultivate are dwindling.
“The Philippines is good in reproduction but bad in production,” he said.
Salceda said when farmers produce less, expect the prices of food to increase.
Food production affects how the country’s agricultural lands are being used as there is a structural limit to land expansion, he added.
Salceda told the about 100 research managers from all over the country who attended the conference that rice is a good policy instrument, and researchers and research managers have a crucial role to play in it.
“For every problem in the sector, there must be a research because every research answers a policy,” he said.
Salceda’s presentation, entitled “Nature’s Vengeance, Farmers’ Revenge: A Roadmap to food Security,” provided the participants insights on the current food production status and, more important, policy options and sequencing in response to the current food price crisis.
The conference’s theme is “Mobilizing research managers for food and energy security.”
Other speakers were Department of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) director Nicomedes P. Eleazar, Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal and Bicol University (BU) vice president Helen Llenaresas.
Eleazar emphasized the need to meet the growing food needs of the country given the constraints in resources.
The challenge, the research administrator said, “is for the research community to make further shifts in the yield potential of rice by developing high-yielding varieties to reduce farmers’ agricultural inputs and increase their incomes.”
On energy security, Eleazar underscored the need for research managers’ aggressive pursuit to make this area a contemporary strategic field for research and policy.
“The advent of biofuels may forecast well for agricultural producers owing to the new markets that will be potentially available,” he said.
“However, its implications to food security, poverty and environments need to be more closely examined. Integration of its research, development and extension (RDE) should be imperative.”
PHILARM is a professional organization established in 1989 to promote and enhance the role of managers in improving and sustaining productivity in research.
It is headed by Dr. Heraldo Layaoan, vice president of the Batac City, Ilocos Norte-based Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU).
PHILARM has now more than 1,000 members, mostly from the fields of research and research management.
President Arroyo asked women yesterday to help promote proper nutrition and birth spacing in the face of a looming rice crisis.
Speaking to members and officers of the Soroptomist International of the Philippines Region (SIPR) during a luncheon in Malacañang, Mrs. Arroyo said the government is addressing demand and supply sides to reduce hunger.
“And as you continue to help our women through health, in the environment, in education, in human rights and in economic and social development,” she said, “I hope that in these trying times of the world, you will also take up the challenge of promoting food nutrition and birth spacing. The ultimate winners of your program combined with nutrition and birth spacing will be the Filipino people and the Filipino women.”
The government is increasing food production and enhancing the efficiency of logistics and food delivery, she added.
Mrs. Arroyo said the government’s agricultural modernization program has allowed the country to increase rice production by more than the population growth rate of 2.04 percent.
“On the demand side, we’re challenged to put more money in poor people’s pockets. That’s why we’re creating programs in training women,” she said.
“We are challenged to promote good nutrition. We are challenged to promote birth spacing.”
“Because even if our rice production is growing more than our population, we have been importing rice since the Spanish times and we have not closed that gap in a sustainable manner.”
Mrs. Arroyo said the SIPR’s programs to improve the poor and marginalized Filipinas’ health, environment, education, human rights and socio-economic development “hew closely” to the government’s programs.
“World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report ranks the Philippines number six in the world among all countries and the only Asian among the top ten in closing the gender gap, the only Asian country and one of only six in the world to have closed the gender gap on both education and health,” she said.
The Philippines is number one in gender parity in the world in terms of literacy rate and enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education; among managers, professional and technical workers, and on life expectancy, Mrs. Arroyo said. — with Paolo Romero