What is hampering the growth of the local biotechnology industry – the “next trend” after the business process outsourcing industry – is the lack of collaboration between the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other government agencies concerned.
Although the DA has its biotechnology road map for 2006 to 2016, Dr. Benigno Peczon, consultant for the DA Secretary’s Technical Advisory Group, said it will encounter difficulties while meeting its targets without the “proper involvement” of some government bureaus.
The road map covers development of new industries in the manufacturing and farming sectors devoted to the production of plants that yield medicinal, cosmetic and food ingredients, as well as agri-bio inputs for organic fertilizers, biofertilizers, and biopesticides.
“For example, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ EO 514 was crafted without sufficient input from the DA and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST),” Peczon said in an interview with the BusinessMirror.
“We need to have a meeting of the minds,” he said.
EO 514 ensures biotechnology products’ safe impact on human health and the environment, as the government sees rapid expansion of modern biotechnology’s use in commercial products. He also pointed out that the DA needs the support of DOST for the research and development (R&D) component, the Department of the Interior and Local Government for the dissemination of information, and the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Foreign Affairs for the opening of technologies to foreign markets.
The country has so far commercialized the Bacillus thuringiensis corn, which has been legally approved to be commercially planted and to be imported.
The entire biotechnology sector is estimated to have a $250-billion market worldwide, including those for crops with pest and disease resistance or increased nutritional value, pharmaceutical products, and biological fertilizers.
Thailand, Singapore, Korea, and Japan are scrambling to embark on their biotechnology industries through participation in international conferences, where international players exchange information and ideas.
“Through participation in conferences of the Biotechnology Industries Organization, the Philippines will be in a better situation to find our niche,” Peczon, former Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines president, said.
Moreover, Peczon said: ”How can you achieve being the next big trend if there’s little R&D money? Such little resources are, on the other hand, not disbursed on a timely basis.”
However, as per the approves national budget for 2008, the allocation for the DOST is P 5.522 billion, a 51-percent increase from last year’s P 3.646 billion.