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The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) conducted a press conference in connection with the celebration of the 16th National Biotechnology Week 2020 via zoom conference on Nov. 23, 2020.

Father Emmanuel “Noli” Alparce, member of the Technical Committee on Information of the Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO) served as moderator during the press conference. He said that DENR, being the host agency for this year’s celebration plays a big role especially during the recent occurrence of calamities in several parts of the country.

The media correspondents present in the event were from ABS-CBN, Philippine Star, Business Mirror, Manila Bulletin, Laguna Courier and Pahayagan ng Caviteño.

Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Rodolfo Vicera, focal person for biotech stressed the importance of improving crops in order to help the farmers.

Philippine Star correspondent, Ms. Maureen Simeon raised the question on the availability of golden rice for commercial propagation. Dr. Rey Ordonio of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) answered that the golden rice is still undergoing a rigid process before it will be available for full-blown commercialization. According to Dr. Ordonio, there will be seven provinces that will be prioritized where there is widespread occurrence of Vitamin A deficiency including Quirino, Catanduanes, Samar and Mindanao.

On the question of Ms. Jasmin Romero of ABS-CBN on the issue on salary of heads of six (6) research centers, ERDB Director Henry A. Adornado said they are still looking into the possibility of upgrading the salary of center heads since their area of jurisdiction was increased during the rationalization which covers the entire country.

Business Mirror correspondent Mr. Jonathan Mayuga asked a question on how people can utilize biotechnology in the National Greening program (NGP) initiatives of the government. ERDB Director Adornado mentioned about ERDB’s technology on Hi-Q Vam 1 which is a biofertilizer that can make trees resistant to drought. He also mentioned the micropropagation of plants using stem cuttings and the clonal propagation of bamboo. He likewise cited the developed protocols on genetic diversity and phytoremediation technology for mining sites.

DA USEC Vicera, however, enumerated some of DA’s biotechnologies such as the molecular-based technology on diseases of goats and tissue culture of drought resistant “saba”: bananas, gene editing of rice, molecular-based technology on abaca virus, biotechnology on milkfish and varietal identification for mango and citrus.

With regard to regulatory measures on commercialization of golden rice, USEC Vicera said, “The Philippines is just slightly higher but very close to Bangladesh”.

Ms. Melody Aguiba from Manila Bulletin asked the question on the status of restoration of watersheds. Director Adornado mentioned the DENR’s prioritization of the massive reforestation of critical watersheds especially after the series of calamities that affected the areas.

DA USEC Vicera proposed a partnership with the DENR in reforesting the critical areas with fruit-bearing tress to provide a complementary income for farmers.

On the inquiry if there is a technology that can be used outside the laboratory, the researcher from DA mentioned about their on-site detection kit for abaca virus which they will soon deploy for field testing.

The press conference ended with a message from Asst. Director Mayumi Quintos-Natividad who thanked all the resource persons for joining the presscon and Father Noli Alparce for moderating the event. “Indeed, this year’s celebration is very timely and relevant, she said. She enjoined everyone to join the weeklong celebration. Marla V. Cambay, TTD

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