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Sen. Cynthia A. Villar had emphasized the need to support research and development (R&D) initiatives for a more progressive agriculture sector, which she said, is the key to solving country’s poverty.

Speaking in the 26th National Rice R&D Conference late last week, Villar said continued efforts in rice R&D will help the government bring about a “sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”

“One of my biggest realizations when I was establishing one livelihood enterprise after another is the important and crucial role that technology plays….I believe that technological innovation and relevant R&D can also propel the agriculture sector to greater heights,” she said.

To achieve food security and increase farmers` income, the R&D initiatives must be complemented with policies.

Villar, who opined that agriculture has been “overlooked or under prioritized” for a long time, said she will review the rather slow implementation of Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), which allocates at least P20 billion a year for agriculture modernization-related programs and projects. Despite AFMA, she noted that the country ranks fifth among its regional neighbors in mechanization.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food also said the Implementing Rules and Regulations for Republic act 10601 or the Agriculture and Fisheries Mechanization Law is being drafted. She said that the law will “promote the development and adoption of modern, appropriate, cost-effective, and environmentally safe agricultural and fisheries machinery and equipment.”

In addressing farming-related challenges, Villar lauded the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) for developing varieties suited for drought and flood-prone areas.

She also recognized the contributions of PhilRice-promoted technologies such as PalayCheck, Minus-One Element Technique (MOET), and reduced tillage technology in helping farmers reduce their expenses and cope with climate change. PalayCheck is an integrated crop management system for rice while MOET is a reliable, low-cost, and easy alternative technique that farmers can do to diagnose soil nutrient status.

“It is about time to reverse the situation of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk as among the poorest in our country. [This is possible] as reports and statistics cite that agricultural provinces are faring better, in terms of lower poverty incidence, than tourism-focused provinces,” she said.

Citing a National Statistical Coordination Board report for the first quarter of 2012, the agricultural provinces of Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya have lower percentages of poverty incidence than known tourism-focused provinces such as Aklan, Bohol, Cebu, and Palawan.

“…. We need to invest in research and development [so] we can increase the productivity of agriculture and boost job creation in the industry through science and technology,” she added.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute