With the country’s farmers facing the threats of the El Niño phenomenon, AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee on Monday urged the government to maximize state educational institutions like the University of the Philippines (UP) to produce crops that can survive extreme weather conditions that lead to extended droughts and damaging floods.

“We should all be deeply concerned about the looming threats of El Niño and its potential negative impact on our agricultural productivity, particularly rice production. Historically, the El Niño has caused severe droughts that lead to water supply issues and subsequently, crop failure,” lamented the solon from Bicol.

The lawmaker pointed out that recent UP initiatives should be maximized by government to benefit Filipino farmers constantly threatened by droughts and typhoons.

“In addition to this, extreme weather events such as floods further exacerbate the challenges faced by our farmers. To address these challenges, we must utilize cutting-edge scientific approaches and maximize the wealth of knowledge in our state educational institutions and science centers.”

In its first El Niño advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) on July 4 announced that “recent PAGASA climate monitoring and analyses indicate that the unusual warming of sea surface temperatures along the equatorial Pacific that was established in March 2023 has further developed into a weak El Niño, which show signs of strengthening in the coming months.”

“To address this urgent issue, our government should consider harnessing the expertise and resources of our state educational institutions and science centers in a concerted effort to advance agricultural genomics research. By doing so, we can work towards developing drought and flood-resilient strains of rice that will safeguard our food security and mitigate the adverse effects of climatic uncertainties,” said Lee.

The lawmaker pointed out that recent UP initiatives should be maximized by government to benefit Filipino farmers constantly threatened by droughts and typhoons. One of these is a recent $14.95 million agricultural genomics agreement between the UP and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to conduct the project, “Capacity-Building for Higher Education and the Establishment of Agricultural Genomics Research Center at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.”

The agreement, signed on July 14 by UP President Angelo Jimenez and KOICA Country Director Kim Eunsub, involves a six-year project that aims to improve agricultural competitiveness by enhancing science and technology adaptation in the agricultural sector. It seeks to establish a state-of-the-art Agricultural Genomics Research Center in UP Los Baños and to enhance the genome-based research and development capability of UP through academic partnerships, scholarships, and trainings.

Agricultural genomics is the study of an organism’s genetic makeup. Lee explained that by analyzing and identifying the genetic traits that contribute to drought and flood tolerance in rice, scientists can develop resilient crop strains that will withstand extreme climatic conditions.

“Developing these strains will significantly enhance our resilience against El Niño-induced droughts and subsequent flood events. We cannot control the weather, but we can and must find ways to deal with its effects on the agricultural sectors. Kapag ginamit natin ang mga institusyon tulad ng UP sa ganitong paraan, Winner Tayo Lahat—matutulungan ang ating magsasaka, at di apektado ang presyo at suplay ng bigas tuwing El Niño o bagyo.”



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