Isko vows to support agri, food research

MANILA Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Wednesday vowed that if elected president, his administration will invest in strengthening the country’s academic and research institutions in agriculture as part of his programs to ensure Philippine food security.

“I hope that someday, somehow, may awa ang Diyos, kung papalarin tayo, we will continue to invest to the number one threat to national security, which is food security. The best way to do it, buhayin muli, palakasin muli ang akademya sa agrikultura,” the Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer said in an interview in Los Baños, Laguna.

“Kaya makaka-asa ang ating mga guro na mamumuhunan ang pamahalaan natin, someday, somehow, bigyan ako ng pagkakataon, to help our professors, teachers to the mastery of their skills. Mamumuhunan tayo lalo na dito, magagaling talaga ang mga teacher dito pagdating sa pagkain o agrikultura. So, we will support them someday and we will invest in our teachers,” said Moreno in the home of University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB).

UPLB has played an influential role in Asian agriculture and biotechnology due to its pioneering efforts in plant breeding and bioengineering, particularly in the development of high-yielding and pest-resistant crops. It also hosts several local and international research centers, including the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, World Agroforestry Centre, and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

Other main institutions specializing in agriculture research include the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), which specializes in developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies for farmers; and the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), which is mandated to generate, extend and commercialize appropriate agriculture and fishery postharvest and mechanization technologies.

“So, I think it’s high time for us to invest in our teachers, develop them, equip them, our institution, focused, result-driven effort, then the farmers para magaan naman yung kanilang kita,” said the 47-year-old presidential candidate.

Besides investing in academic and research institutions specializing in agriculture, Mayor Isko said a Moreno presidency will ensure that the product of these institutions will benefit the Philippine agriculture sector.

But most of all, he vowed to support and protect Filipino farmers and the country’s food producers to ensure that there is food on the table of every Filipino family.

“Hindi lang rice research. In fact, hangggang ngayon kinikilala sa mundo ang UPLB, IRRI for that matter dahil sa kagalingan nito. Napapakinabangan ito ng iba’t-ibang bansa. Bakit lumabas bandang huli, nag-iimport na tayo ng bigas, tapos natataka ako nawawala na yung bawang sa norte. Bakit hirap na hirap yung magsisibuyas sa Nueva Ecija? O, because our market is flooded with imported products. Paano na yung mga magsasaka? O baka lang namamali tayo ng direksyon na puhunanan yung ating mga guro sa agrikultura, institusyon sa agrikultura at higit sa lahat, yung mga magsasaka,” he said.

Agriculture is one of the main pillars of Moreno’s 10-point Bilis Kilos Economic Agenda, which will be his administration’s guiding principles to accelerate human and economic growth if elected president.

Moreno aims to raise the income of farmers to the level of average Filipino workers by lowering the cost of agricultural production; providing risk-free capitals; building more irrigation systems while improving the efficiency of existing ones; and establishing the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, among others.

To ensure farmers of their income, Moreno said his administration will buy the surplus produce of farmers at the right price; issue clear guidelines on the strict importation of agricultural products to make sure that local producers can sell their products first before importation is made, and clamp down on smuggling of agriculture products to protect the interests of local producers.

Likewise, the government will lead the effort for farmers to adopt new technologies to increase their productivity and establish post-harvest facilities and cold storage facilities across the country and in major production areas.

“So, pumanatag kayo. Lagi kong pagtutuunan yung ating number one threat to national security, which is food security. And it is high time for the next administration to focus and invest on it,” said Moreno, a former “basurero” who became a Manila councilor at age 23, Manila vice mayor at age 32, and Manila mayor at age 44.