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by Joe Galvez
18-June-2005 Manila Bulletin

Local government officials of several towns in Luzon have agreed to help propagate genetically engineered crops in their municipalities to ensure food security and alleviate poverty among marginalized farmers.

Mayors, sangguniang bayan members, and line-agency officials, who attended last Thursday’s forum for local government officials at Anabel’s Restaurant in Quezon City, have shown interest in biotechnology after experts briefed them on the potentials and safe of biotech products.

“The mayors, vice mayors and the sungguniang bayan members hold the key to the successful implementation of the biotech program,” said Fr. Noli Alparce, head of the DA-Information and Education Campaign (DAIEC).

“That is why it is very important that we share with the town executives the information that would convince them to accept and embrace biotechnology as an alternative process to increase their farmers’ crop yields.”

Aside from Alparce, other speakers were Dr. Saturnina Halos, chairman of the Department of Agriculture Biotech Advisory Group (DA-BAD); Director Alicia Ilaga, chief of the DA Biotechnology Program Implementation Unit (DA-BPIU); and Abraham Manalo, executive director of the Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines Inc. (BCP).

They told local officials that biotech products are “the wave of the future.”

The experts assured them that biotech products are covered by strict regulatory guidelines before these are allowed to become commercially available.

Alparce also told the mayors that biotechnology offers a wide range of applications. He said that bio-reactors can be applied to the solid-waste management program of the municipalities. He said that he was able to convince Sorsogon Mayor Sally Lee to use composting by the town’s solid waste management board and to use bio-reactors to process solid waste.

“This is the law and maybe you can start to constitute your (town or city) solid waste management board, including the provincial solid waste management board to do it now,” Alparce said. “Biotechnology is a technology that is already available.”

He said that local officials should consider that advantages of biotechnology in agriculture and environment. He urged them to inform their constituents on the urgency of the situation.

Ilaga said that 19 biotech products have already been approved fro commercialization worldwide after several years of stringent testing proved the products to be safe for food, feed and processing.

“This is very important because new technology will give us new technology,” Kasibo (Nueva Vizcaya) Mayor Romeo Tayaban said. ‘Even if we only have few farmers planting corn and rice, I believe biotechnology will be a big help to the farmers because if will help them increase their crop yields.”

‘At first, I really don’t have any idea of what biotech is all about, and we’re not even talking about it at all,” Cabiao (Nueva Ecija) Mayor Gloria Congco said. “Now that I was able to listen {to the lectures}, I am starting to think that the Filipino really need to understand this technology further.”

Congco said that as chief executive of her town, she will gather her constituents so they may know more about to the agricultural sector. She cited the Vital-N bio-fertilizer that was introduced by Dr. Halos to the mayors.

“I did not know that there was such a fertilizer wherein you can use one pack in exchange for four sacks of fertilizers which means more than half of the price That is good news for any farmers,” Congco said. “we are an agricultural town and we are into rice and sorghum, so this kind of advancement will be beneficial to the farmers.”

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