Phl at high risk for 6 major hazards: Science and technology needed to remain competitive

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 4, 2011-With the joint study by Columbia University and the World Bank entitled ‘Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis’, which identifies countries where the Philippines was pegged as one of the riskiest countries in the world for six (6) major natural hazards: earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, floods, drought, and cyclones, Senator Edgardo J. Angara, chair of the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering  (COMSTE) urged the government through the use of science and technology (S&T) to engineer resilience in the country’s agriculture industry to grow and to remain competitive even struck by natural calamities.


The Senator said that in order to create a more resilient nation, we have to utilize the tools that S&T can give us, saying that the we can lessen the impact of these events by equipping ourselves with the tools to be better prepared with the proper approach because the Philippines is often left at the mercy of typhoons and natural disasters.


“Our food supply is threatened because almost every time we are hit by storm; thus, there is a need to become more resilient as these disasters come yearly,” Angara said, adding that the reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) indicated that the rains that damaged the northern Luzon last month affected 21 provinces for nearly PhP 200 million worth of damage in the agricultural sector.


He furthered that the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that the recent eruption of Mt. Bulusan has damaged up to 2,000 hectares of rice fields with standing palay crop of 10,000 metric tons (MT), adding that the defunct National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that last year, approximately PHP 5 Billion worth of damage was wrought on the agricultural sector from typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng where the storms disrupted the nation’s rice supply, forcing then President Arroyo to initiate imports to avert shortage.


“The Presidential Coordinating Council on Research and Development (PCCRD) identified the development of food and non-food crop varieties for high yield, quality and nutritional value to be able to adapt to unfavorable environments and the development of enhanced systems that will minimize adverse environmental effects as key national priorities for 2010 t0 2016,” Angara said.


He added that the report from the commission stated that the Philippines accounted for less than 3% of the total expenditures of the regions expenditures during 1981-2000 and that the number of R&D agencies has not grown significantly since 1996 in terms of R&D spending.


“The last four years, the productivity level of the agricultural sector has been growing by 4%; however it is not growing at a pace to match the needs of the growing population,” Angara said.


He cited that the 2005 study by Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) showed that a 3.5% average growth rate in production is needed, which is almost 3 times higher than the growth rate of the rice in the 1990’s for rice to meet a growing populations needs. The same study also indicated that the country has a productivity crisis in agriculture and agricultural research, development and extension (RD&E).


From the Mid-90’s until now, the Philippine agricultural intensity ratio is at 0.4%, as compared to neighbors like Malaysia 1.1% and Thailand 1.6% where the Senator said that the underinvestment in agricultural R&D is believed to be one of the main reasons why the Philippines does not compare well with other countries in the region in terms of yield and productivity for almost all crops.


“The research intensity ratio of 0.4% should be raised to 0.75% by the end of the year and up to 1.5% by 2020 in order to be competitive,” Angara said, adding that there is a need to pursue in strengthening the R&D systems, institutions, facilities and human resources even there were improvements in agricultural R&D since 1990’s. (Jason de Asis) 


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