DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña (PNA file photo by Cristina Arayata)

MANILA – The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has allocated an additional PHP31.6 million for food security research and development (R&D) projects covering five commodities.

In an online interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Tuesday, DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said this is apart from the PHP36 million the DOST had set aside for projects supportive of food security in preparation for the post-coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) recovery process.

"I want to emphasize the role of R&D not just for the short and medium terms, but for the longer term as well. This is how we prepare for the future," dela Peña said.

The projects would cover milkfish, "ulang" (giant river prawn), native chicken, queen pineapple, garlic, and other condiments.

Dela Peña said the budget would be spent on supplies, such as animal feeds, planting materials, fertilizer, potting medium, reagents, training, laboratory fee for genetic sequencing, incubator, and laboratory equipment.

"We would find out the genetic diversity of 'ulang's' population through mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) sequences and microsatellite analyses. Through this, we would know where to find the good population of 'ulang'," he said.

For R&D involving milkfish, dela Peña said the program would use genome-based approaches to enhance milkfish production. Researchers would also study ways to help a good population of milkfish to reproduce more.

The project on native chicken would be done in Zamboanga.

"Potential farmer cooperators would be selected based on a set of criteria. They will be trained on native chicken production and management," dela Peña said.

He added that they would assess if they could earn from taking care of native chicken.

"After they attend the training courses, they could buy foundation stock. They will be provided with the technical know-how," he said.

The proposed Garlic and Other Agri-Food Condiments R&D Center, to be based at the Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte, would revitalize the garlic industry, dela Peña said.

"This seeks to revitalize the garlic industry in the country and improve the other agri-food condiments (e.g. shallot, chili, black pepper, ginger, and turmeric) industry through R&D. The program is expected to contribute to increasing the local garlic’s competitiveness in the market, and develop a successful chain for garlic production, including processing and storage facilities," he said.

On the queen pineapple project, dela Peña said farmers would be trained on production using somatic embryogenesis. They would also learn about other products from pineapple.

"The program would also find ways to detect the virus that causes disease in pineapple. Through a new system, we would study how to manage pests, and increase the production of pineapple," he added.

The projects involving "ulang", milkfish, garlic, and native chicken start in July, while the R&D involving the queen pineapple is set in August.

Dela Peña said these R&D projects would benefit the entire country for the milkfish, the Calabarzon region for the "ulang", the Zamboanga Peninsula for the native chicken, the Ilocos region for the garlic, and the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions for the queen pineapple.

"The whole milkfish industry in the country may benefit from this project," he said.

Ten fishpond and hatchery operators are expected to benefit from the R&D on "ulang", and 15 farmers would benefit from the training on native chicken production and business management.

For the R&D on garlic, dela Peña expects that by the end of the program, five cooperatives and 100 farmers would be trained on curing and storage practices.

"The model farms by select farmer-cooperators are also expected to attract and stimulate (the) adoption of technologies among garlic growers in the region," dela Peña said. (PNA)