02 October 2015

APEC News Releases

Palace welcomes results of latest World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators report
Malacañang on Friday welcomed the results of the latest World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) survey, which were attributed to the Aquino administration’s Daang Matuwid advocacy.

“Along with the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016, the latest World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) survey again affirms the extent of our country’s transformation under Daang Matuwid,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a statement.

The Palace official noted that the Philippines has shown improvements in all six indicators since 2010 and this year, the country scored higher in five indicators as compared to last year.

“Scores for our country show improvements in all six indicators since 2010. Compared to the previous year’s results, the Philippines scored higher in five out of six indicators: voice and accountability; political stability and absence of violence; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; and rule of law,” said Valte.

She said positive developments such as this “make clear that good governance and reform lead to increased peace, harmony, and citizen participation in government”.

“Such an environment encourages not only a more vibrant democracy but also a more active business sector, which in turn promotes productivity and economic activity. This virtuous cycle holds many benefits for our countrymen: increased job opportunities, a higher standard of living, and a greater capacity for investment in, for example, skills development and education,” she added.

“By continuing to empower the Filipino people, the Aquino administration seeks to ensure that such gains will be enjoyed by both present and future generations,” Valte further said. PND (jm)

President Aquino leads groundbreaking ceremony of new Supreme Court Complex in Taguig
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday led the groundbreaking of the future site of the new Supreme Court (SC) Complex in Taguig City.

The President was joined by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the Supreme Court’s Associate Justices during the ceremony held at the 21,463-square meter property located at the former Philippine Army Security Group Area in Fort Bonifacio.

After the laying of the time capsule, Chief Justice Sereno presented the SC Marker to President Aquino, who placed it at the groundbreaking site to signal the start of the construction.

The groundbreaking was preceded by a ceremonial signing of the Contract to Sell between the SC En Banc Clerk of Court Felipa Anama, and the Bases and Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), represented by its President and Chief Executive Officer, Arnel Paciano Casanova.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by President Aquino, Chief Justice Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Martin Villarama, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Mario Leonen and Francis Jardeleza, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

President Aquino said the construction of the new Supreme Court Complex was made possible through proper planning and coordination with the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative bodies.

“Siyempre, naging posible ang lahat ng ito dahil sa maayos na pagpaplano at ugnayan ng Ehekutibo, Hudikatura, at Lehislatura. Talaga naman pong makabuluhan ang okasyong ito, dahil binubuksan nito ang bagong kabanata sa ating pag-uugnayan. At idagdag ko na rin na talagang tangan ninyo ang suporta ng Ehekutibo at Lehislatura; halimbawa nito ang inaasahang higit na pagdoble ng inyong budget mula sa P12.66 billion noong 2010 patungong P25.89 billion para sa 2016, na tiwala akong magagamit ninyo upang mas mapaglingkuran ang ating mga mamamayan,” President Aquino said in his speech.

“Patunay nga ang itatayong SC Complex na ito na basta’t may lehitimong pangangailangan, basta’t makabuluhan ang patutunguhan, isasagad natin ang ating kakayahan upang tugunan ito. Sa ganito pong paraan, mapapatibay natin ang ating mga institusyon, at magiging mas epektibo ang paglilingkod sa ating mga Boss, ang sambayanang Pilipino,” he added.

President Aquino also expressed confidence that Chief Justice Sereno would push for judicial reforms.

“Sa gabay naman ng itinalaga nating Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, kumpiyansa tayong isusulong niya nang husto ang reporma sa inyong sangay sa mahabang panahong maglilingkod siya.,, Nariyan, halimbawa, ang inyong ‘Hustisyeah’, ang automated hearings, at e-courts para pabilisin ang pangangasiwa sa mga kaso, pati na rin ang mga inisyatibang gaya ng e-subpoena sa ilalim ng ating Justice Zone, na sinimulan kasama ng ating Department of Interior and Local Government at Department of Justice,” the Chief Executive said.

“Simple lang naman ang inaasahan ng ating mga Boss mula sa ating mga lingkod-bayan: imbes na “just-tiis,” isulong natin ang totoong justice,” he further said.

President Aquino also stressed the importance of unity to ensure that the next generation will have a better future.

“Sa pagkakaisa, tiyak na maipapamana natin sa susunod na salinlahi ang isang Pilipinas na di-hamak na mas maganda kaysa sa ating dinatnan; isang bansa kung saan talagang namamayani ang hustisya at patas ang pagkakataon para sa bawat Pilipino; isang lipunan kung saan masasabi nating ang mga problemang ating kinakaharap ay di na kailangang danasin pa ng mga susunod sa atin,” he added.

The SC building is currently located along Padre Faura Street in Manila. PND (jm)

Food security goes beyond increasing region’s food production, Philippine official tells APEC
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Ensuring food security is more than just increasing food production in the region, Chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS), Asis Perez, has told delegates of other APEC member economies.

“Among others, it involves enhancing the competitiveness of our agriculture and fisheries, fair policies that promote a sustainable growth and cooperative relationship between and among the many stakeholders in food security,” said Perez, who is also National Director of the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The 2nd PPFS Meeting opened at the Iloilo Convention Center here on Friday on the margins of the 10-day High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and the Blue Economy Meeting.

The PPFS meeting, hosted by the Philippines this year, aims to strengthen the partnership and commitment of the public and private sectors as key to long-term food security.

Perez stressed that food security is one of the urgent challenges confronting the world, especially the APEC region, as 70 percent of the world’s hungry population are in the Asia Pacific.

“With the private sector’s major role in agriculture and fisheries, it is high time that we recognize the importance of promoting trade, market access and investments along the food value chain,” he said.

“Guided by public policies, laws, and regulations, it is vital that we share a common vision for food security, wherein the public and private sectors are in convergence — playing significant and complementary roles,” he noted.

The PPFS Chair also urged the APEC to harmonize action and strategic plan with other APEC-related fora, such as that on the Blue Economy, to establish linkage and intensified work to advance food security.

“Our outcomes must be responsive, giving concrete and timely solutions in the challenge of improving the living conditions of citizens in the APEC region,” Perez said.

He added that the Partnership on Food Security meeting shall lead APEC economies to produce tangible recommendations for consideration during the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting this November.

The Philippines has hosted the first two PPFS meetings of the APEC, held in Boracay and Iloilo City, respectively. PNA (kc)

APEC delegates told: 400,000 poor Filipino corn farmers who switched to genetically modified crops now earn better
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Some 400,000 “poor-income” Filipino corn farmers who switched to planting genetically modified organism (GMO) crops now earn better, Chair of the Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Biotechnology Advisory Team, Dr. Saturnina Halos, has said.

During her presentation at an APEC forum on food security here Thursday, Halos thus urged the other 20 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to review the strict European Union guidelines on GMO and come up with a detailed policy that farmers can adopt.

She said planting GMO crops will help bring larger incomes to farmers and eventually alleviate poverty, citing the Philippine experience.

“Adopting biotechnology farming resulted in poverty alleviation,” she said, noting that the Philippines is the fourth top GMO producer in the APEC.

Citing a Philippine study done in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Halos said that of these 400,000 Filipino farmers:

• 60.9 percent of them were able to send their children to school;
• 46 percent said they have extra money to spend for their daily household expenses;
• 23.3 percent were able to save some farming capital;
• 3.7 percent have already bought their own cars or vehicles; and
• 0.5 percent have had the chance to spend for a leisure trip abroad.

“They now have time… (for) leisure. Those farmers being able to send their children to universities means they are out of poverty,” she noted.

Halos said that of the 21 APEC member economies, only seven produce biotechnology crops.

The United States is the top producer of GMO crops with a 73.1 million-hectare allocation; followed by Canada with 11.6 million hectares; China — 3.9 million hectares; the Philippines — 800,000 hectares; Australia — 500,000 hectares; Mexico — 200,000 hectares; and Chile with less than 50,000 hectares.

“We hope that Indonesia and Vietnam will join us in this list this year,” Halos said, adding that the two countries are now considering adopting biotechnology farming.

Globally, 18 million farmers plant biotechnology crops, 91.7 percent of which, or 16.5 million, are “resource-poor farmers”.

Since they adopted biotechnology farming, Halos said, these seven APEC economies have increased their earnings by 68 percent. (APEC Communications Group)

APEC told: Philippines to ensure biosafety of genetically modified crops
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The Philippines will coordinate with leading experts from the academe and other research institutions in ensuring the biosafety of genetically modified (GM) crops, said Dr. Ernelea Cao, a professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

The country has put in place measures to regulate the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn because of issues on its possible “toxicity, allergenicity, and even probably carcinogenicity”, Cao said during a press briefing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology here Thursday.

Although the Philippines is among the biggest growers of GM crops, as some 415,000 farmers in 2014 planted Bt corn on 831,000 hectares, the professor pointed out that some concerns are still raised about the safety of this crop.

The Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Plant Industry, she said, “is involved with the regulation — the regulatory component — and utilizes experts from the academe and other research institutions for assessing the biosafety of such applications”.

Cao, a leading expert on agricultural biotechnology and a professor at the Institute of Biology in UP Diliman, said the Philippines follows the Codex Plant Guidelines, a set of international standards by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, of which the country is a member.

At the same time, the Philippines also adheres to specific provisions that “tackle how safety can be assessed, particularly in terms of looking at the modification itself, what has been done, the process that has been involved”, she said.

At the APEC meetings on agricultural biotechnology, experts from the academe and other research institutions came together to look into the GM Bt corn of the Philippines and to examine its effects on consumers’ health.

Genetically modified crops are plants whose DNA has been modified using genetic engineering to introduce a new trait, such as resistance to pests, diseases, or environmental conditions, as well as to improve the nutrient profile of the crop.

In the Philippines, Bt corn saw a steady increase in land area use since it was first commercially introduced in 2003.

Since 2011, the country’s production of Bt corn has enabled it to become self-sufficient in this crop. And because of its good quality, the Philippines has also begun exporting corn silage (grass) to South Korea in 2013. (APEC Communications Group)

Ensuring food security, fighting hunger need close coordination among APEC economies, says Chinese official
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Addressing food security, and fighting hunger and malnutrition will require concerted efforts from the Asia-Pacific region’s various stakeholders, Dr. Han Jizhi, Vice Chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS), has said.

By creating a plan and roadmap on ensuring food security, APEC economies have made progress towards food security in recent years, Han said in his welcome remarks at the opening of the PPFS here Friday.

Citing assessments made by Chinese Taipei, Han said public-private partnerships could reduce food losses in the region.

The US, China, South Korea and Japan have made major strides in reducing food losses, he said, adding that Japan will be hosting a high-level public-private forum to strengthen the global food value chain.

“Through these activities, we are raising awareness on these issues, disseminating knowledge on how to tackle these issues at different levels,” he said.

Reducing food loss and food wastage also has a major impact on the environment as it cuts the carbon footprint of producers.

Through the conduct of different fora that resulted in regional action, the APEC region has reduced the number of undernourished people to 236 million, he said.

However, 490 million people are still suffering from chronic hunger in the region, and the figure includes 182 million undernourished individuals from APEC economies.

Addressing multidimensional food security issues in the Asia Pacific will thus need inclusive growth resulting from better livelihood for agricultural communities, he said.

“Increasing the productivity of small stakeholders and farmers, and promoting the rural economic integration through well-functioning markets are essential elements of inclusive growth,” Han said.

He said the progress in the fight against hunger and malnutrition requires APEC economies’ coordinated response from all stakeholders involved.

Therefore, it also needs the production of technical policy and institutionalized innovation and the creation of mutually beneficial partnership to ensure growth with shared prosperity and environmental sustainability, he noted.

Senior ministers and officials of APEC economies are meeting in Iloilo City starting Friday for the two-day APEC PPFS. PND (as)

Farmers should be allowed to produce crops that could earn them more money, says biotech expert
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Any farmer should be allowed to produce the crop that could make the most money and still preserve the environment, an expert on biotechnology said Friday.

Dr. Saturnina Halos, who is a Senior Agriculture Science Consultant at the Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture (DA), declared this amid questions aired by organic farming advocates on why the department promotes genetically modified crops while also supporting organic agriculture.

“The thing is, both farming systems would benefit the farmers, depending on their situation,” Halos said during a press briefing held here on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Agriculture Week.

The respected scientist, who had set up the University of the Philippines molecular and biotechnology department in Diliman, said the controversy arises in the provinces, where some farmers who are following the organic production system complain that the pollen from genetically modified corns would fall on their own crops.

“If you go around the country, there are some people who say that they have more rights than others because the system that they are using is environment friendly,” said Halos. “This is usually claimed by the organic farming advocates.”

To prove her point, she cited as an example a case involving two farms located side by side, with one farm producing organic crops, and the other growing only genetically modified corn.

Halos pointed out that if the organic farm is producing lettuce or rice, it should not be a concern.

“Unfortunately, some people do not understand this,” she said. “There is no problem actually when you are growing different crops in the same area using genetically modified corn or organic produce. That is a concern only if you are also planting corn. But if you are planting rice, which is the most extensively planted organically grown crop today, it does not matter.”

“I hope our people will understand this and that we allow, we tolerate the existence of different production systems in the same area,” Halos added. “We do not need the ordinances that are being crafted right now, saying that we want only organic, that your GM (genetically modified) corn producers should not exist.”

She noted that the DA’s experience with GM crops is already almost 20 years and from that experience, there is already a lot of data to show that growing this crop is environment friendly, and it reduces the carbon emission into the environment.

“There is data on that, there is also data on the reduction of pesticide because of growing these GM crops, and there is also a lot of data even locally, that the farmers producing this GM corn locally really make more money,” Halos said. “Some of them who know how to manage their farms, manage their money, they have become millionaires and we could cite to you many examples of such farms.” (APEC Communications Group)

Climate Change threatens local aquaculture industry, says scientist
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Rising water temperatures as a result of climate change could threaten the country’s aquaculture industry and fish production in general, a scientist based in Iloilo province said on Friday.

“There is a threat to aquaculture production,” said Dr. Felix Ayson, the chief of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC).

“And we are just looking at the temperature itself but we know that our oceans will become acidic as well. So we still have to factor that in,” he said during a press briefing here when asked about the impact of changing weather conditions on aquaculture.

Noting that he does not want to sound alarmist, Ayson said that despite the gloomy picture that climate change will bring, there are still ways to overcome these challenges.

Organisms can adapt to new temperatures but it will take time, he said, adding that the industry cannot afford to stop fish production to address the country’s food needs.

“If the organisms cannot adapt, we have to have some alternative,” Ayson said.

For instance, he said, if there is a spawning problem in bangus (milkfish) due to higher water temperature, producers could put up a controlled facility just for the embryo, so that the bangus eggs could hatch.

But the implication is that it will raise the price of bangus as a result of additional inputs, Ayson said.

“We need to provide this data to our policymakers for them to plan. It is our role as a research organization to provide this scientific data to our policymakers,” he said.

Ayson reported that they did a 10-month study on a locally known fish specie called Malaga, conducted under higher water temperature. This fish is also called samaral batuhan (scientific name Siganus corallinus).

He said they found that the Malaga spawned at 33 degrees Celsius but it also had very weak embryos that would not survive. The embryos, which were supposed to hatch and become larvae after 24 hours, perished.

“If it won’t survive, we will have no fry and therefore no stocks for our ponds and cages,” he said, adding that after the study on the Malaga, they will conduct research studies on the bangus and other species because of their implication to the aquaculture industry.

Milkfish comes after seaweeds among the top aquaculture produce of the country, making it a very important part of the local food supply.

Scientists have predicted that global water temperatures will rise to 33 degrees to 34 degrees Celsius at the end of the century from the normal temperatures of 28 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius.

These changes in the climate will have a major impact on the Asia-Pacific region’s quest for food security and sustainability. PND (as)

Philippines’ aquaculture development an example to Asia Pacific economies
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The development of the Philippines’ aquaculture industry serves as a model for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies in terms of attaining the region’s food security goals, a scientist said here Friday.

Climate change is a major threat to food production and food security in the Asia Pacific, but developments in the Philippines’ aquaculture industry have improved production, resulting in higher revenues for the country, Chief of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), Felix Ayson, said during a media briefing on the margins of the APEC’s 2nd Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS).

Citing an example, Ayson said the output of the local seaweed industry continues to grow even though the sector faces threats posed by higher water temperatures, which prevent the growth of seaweeds.

The SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department’s Farming Systems and Aquatic Ecology Section Head Maria Rovilla Luhan, a seaweed expert, explained that seaweeds cannot grow when the water temperature rises beyond 32 degrees Celsius, which commonly occurs in the months of April, May, and June.

Luhan however said that through new techniques — such as the introduction of micro-propagules to hasten the growth of seaweeds — the industry could actually grow them during the second quarter of the year.

She noted that with the new technique, the average growth rate in seaweed farms ranges from 4 percent to 8 percent, faster than the 1.5 percent to 2 percent growth without utilizing micro-propagules.

“Right now our seaweed production is increasing,” she reported, noting that despite higher water temperatures, the local seaweed industry still managed to increase its revenues from US$110 million in 2013 to US$115 million in 2014.

Luhan said another way to increase the production of seaweeds is to find new locations where conditions are conducive to seaweed farming.

Ayson meanwhile emphasized the need for APEC economies to continue developing new techniques and technologies in aquaculture, as the industry plays a significant role in ensuring food security in the region. PNA (kc)

Aquaculture industry should prioritize production efficiency, says researcher
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The aquaculture industry must first improve its production efficiency before expanding its areas of operation, a fishery scientist said here Friday.

“Although our sea is very vast, you cannot farm in the open ocean. There is also a limited area in the sea where you can do farming,” Chief of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), Dr. Felix Ayson, said during a press briefing here.

Aside from expansion, another issue is the availability of seed stocks for aquaculture, said Dr. Evelyn Grace Ayson, the research head of SEAFDEC.

She said the local industry produces 350,000 metric tons of milkfish and this production volume needs about 2.3 billion milkfish fry.

“But we cannot collect that 2.3 billion milkfish fry from our coastal waters. This has to be produced in hatcheries. There is a lot of interest in Groupers for example but you can collect very few Grouper fingerlings in our wild waters, in natural habitats,” she explained.

“So this has to be produced in hatcheries, which currently we do not have,” Ayson said, adding that the same goes with crab production.

Talking about expansion should entail support from different stakeholders, she said.

“We cannot talk of areas of expansion only, we need to also consider inputs that we need for expansion,” she added. PND (as)

Research body underscores aquaculture industry’s role in food security in Asia Pacific
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) has emphasized the role of the aquaculture industry in attaining food security in the Asia Pacific.

Chief of the SEAFDEC’s Aquaculture Department, Felix Ayson, said on Friday that member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) need to develop and support the aquaculture industry.

Aquaculture or aquafarming involves cultivating marine organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs, and aquatic plants under controlled conditions.

Ayson noted that 50 percent of the global production of aquatic organisms comes from farms, and the other 50 percent from the natural environment, such as seas and oceans.

“For every two fishes you see in the market, one of them is produced in a farm. That is the contribution of the aquaculture industry in food production,” Ayson said during a press briefing on the sidelines of the APEC Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS) Meeting here.

He said increasing the share of aquaculture industry in food production in the region will help APEC member economies achieve their food security goals.

“We need to improve the efficiency of production. It is just necessary for us to produce (fish) in farms, considering that many of our fishing grounds are already overexploited,” Ayson explained.

“We need our marine resources to recover for our natural environment to continue providing us food. But that will take time,” he added.

To increase the aquaculture industry’s production, APEC economies need to invest more on research and development to improve production efficiency and expand areas allotted to aquafarming, said Ayson.

“We need research and development and innovation in increasing production efficiency,” he stressed, noting that food production should keep pace with the fast population growth rate.

He cited a study on the need to increase food production by 30 percent by 2035 to feed the increasing population.

It was noted that compared with other food production sectors, aquaculture has the fastest expansion of more than 10 percent.

Livestock production growth is about 5 percent.

The SEAFDEC is an intergovernmental body composed of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Japan.

The Policy Partnership on Food Security Meeting is part of the High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and Blue Economy Meeting, which highlights opportunities and challenges on the Blue Economy or the use of the sea and its resources for economic development. PNA (kc)

Aquaculture industry seeks more government support to reduce feed costs
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Aquaculture producers want the government to provide them subsidies, cut the ad valorem tax, and find ways to bring down electricity prices to reduce the cost of feed production in the country.

The country’s aquaculture industry still has a large room for expansion and has huge potentials, compared to its livestock industry, Dr. Mae Catacutan, who heads the Nutrition and Feed Development Section of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), said in an interview on Friday.

“Livestock production has already tapered off but aquaculture keeps on increasing,” said Catacutan.

The only concern is that feed prices are high, affecting the price of marine products when they reach the market, she said.

Some 60 percent to 80 percent of the ingredients of feeds are imported, thus feed prices are influenced by currency exchange rates, she explained, adding that some countries buy in bulk to get their imported ingredients at a cheaper price.

Thailand, Taiwan and other countries subsidize importation to reduce costs.

“Another problem is the cost of the electricity,” she said.

For instance, the Philippines’ feed formulation is similar to that of Indonesia but the latter’s feeds are cheaper due to cheaper power costs.

To address the concern, some Filipino feed manufacturers tweak the feed formulations to slash costs, she said.

The SEAFDEC joined the APEC discussion on Policy Partnership on Food Security (PPFS) that began on Friday and will continue until Saturday. PND (as)

APEC urges youth to study big moneymaker agriculture
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Young people should study agriculture, particularly the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops, which are big moneymakers, said a Philippine delegate to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum on food security.

To do this, the Philippines will start GM farming subjects and courses in high school and college in 2016, Chair of the Department of Agriculture’s Biotechnology Advisory Team, Dr. Saturnina Halos, said on Thursday.

“By next year, we will start training teachers on genetically modified farming. And we will make this part of the curriculum,” Halos told the reporters at the APEC Food Security and the Blue Economy Forum here in Iloilo City.

She said GM farming is advantageous to the country and the lives of all farmers, generating income and contributing to the APEC’s goal of inclusive growth.

Halos said GM agriculture could yield as much as 10 tons of corns.

Selling them at P10 per kilogram is equivalent to P100,000 per harvest, 60 percent more than six tons or P60,000 yield per harvest of ordinary corn.

“Mas malaki ang kita ng Bt corn farmers compared to those planting ordinary ones. There is also a lot of data that farmers producing this GM corn really make more money. Some of them who know how to manage their farms, manage their money, they have become millionaires,” Halos said.

Studies in the past 20 years also show that growing GM crops is environment-friendly, reducing carbon emission and pesticide use.

However, few students show interest in agriculture, thinking that it will not earn much money.

Halos said she and her team are working with high schools and universities, especially in agriculture-based provinces, training teachers on GM farming.

“We need to improve our (idea of the) agriculture sector as (a profitable sector) for our students,” she said.

The curriculum includes business planning and strategies on how to market Bt corn in and outside the Philippines, she added.

Government scholarships on biotechnology for undergraduate and postgraduate studies are also being offered.

“You only need to inquire with our Department of Agriculture for the scholarships,” she said.

Except for Central Visayas, which consists of the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, and Siquijor, all regions in the country are now producing GM corn, Halos said.

Isabela is the top producer of GM corn in the country, followed by Bicol, she said.

Globally, the Philippines is the fourth top producer of biotechnology crops covering a total of 800,000 hectares.

The top three producers of GM crops are the United States with 73.1 million hectares; followed by Canada with 11.6 million hectares; and China with 3.9 million hectares.

After the Philippines, the next three top GM producers are Australia with 500,000 hectares; followed by Mexico with 200,000 hectares; and Chile with less than 50,000 hectares. (APEC Communications Group)