Many aspects of the now 33-year-old PhilRice are public knowledge. One of the memorable details of the Institute’s early years is the role of the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino, whose birth anniversary was commemorated on January 25.
While the executive order establishing PhilRice was signed by President Ferdinand E. Marcos on November 5, 1985, Cory Aquino amended it a year later to increase the membership of the Institute’s highest policy-making body, the Board of Trustees from 8 to 12. Each member serves a two-year term.
Dr. Santiago R. Obien, the first PhilRice director appointed by Cory Aquino herself in December 1986, said that by amending the PhilRice charter, the president meant to support the operations of the fledgling rice research institute. Without her support, it would have been difficult to pursue the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) grant-in-aid that provided facilities and research equipment to PhilRice.
Dr. Ruben L. Villareal, then UPLB College of Agriculture Dean, was appointed as PhilRice executing officer to administer and conduct the initial operations of the institute in March 1986. Villareal and his colleagues then drafted the seven PhilRice programs: Rice varietal improvement; Planting and fertilizer management; Integrated pest management; Rice engineering and mechanization; Social science and policy research; Rice-based farming systems; and Technology transfer. In June 1987, when Obien actually assumed leadership, he added Rice chemistry and food science as another program.
Cory inaugurates PhilRice CES
Gracing the May 23, 1991 milestone, Aquino said:
“Today, we celebrate the inauguration of the new laboratories and facilities of PhilRice. In a span of only four years, PhilRice has contributed to the unification of the country’s rice research efforts. Its new laboratories will further boost the capacity to make rice research truly responsive to the dynamics of Philippine Agriculture and to the challenge of attaining rice self-sufficiency.”
Collectively known as the Central Experiment Station (CES), the JICA-supported infrastructure and equipment enabled the PhilRice headquarters based in Muñoz City, Nueva Ecija. The UPLB facilities where the Institute first launched its operations became its principal office.
Together with the Maligaya Rice Research and Training Center that evolved as PhilRice CES, the Cory Aquino administration also turned over to PhilRice in 1989 the Cagayan Valley and Mindanao Experiment Stations in San Mateo, Isabela and Midsayap, North Cotabato, respectively. The Bureau of Plant Industry used to operate these operations.