Press Release
February 2, 2015

Villar braces for sustainable rice production despite climate change

Senator Cynthia A. Villar yesterday stressed the state-of-the art Lloyd Evans Plant Growth Facility of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna, will help sustain and boost the country's rice production despite climate change.

"I know that this facility, with its controlled environment rooms and plant growth chambers, will serve a very important purpose as a key international resource and venue for biotechnological research and conservation of genetic diversity," said Villar.

Once the facility becomes fully operational, Villar said it will enable the nurture and study of plants, particularly rice, in a wide range of environment, controlling for temperature, relative humidity, light intensity, photo period systems, water management systems, and the precise control of atmospheric gases.

"We definitely need to develop coping mechanisms in the form of new concepts and technologies," said Villar, describing as a "welcome development" the latest IRRI facility.

She braces for what the facility can develop that will help sustain rice production even during difficult climate conditions.

"I do not need to emphasize that rice is our staple food. Thus, it will be good news to the 94.7 percent of Filipinos households who consume rice. The sustainable production and supply of rice is, of course, our key priority," said Villar who chairs the Senate Agriculture and Food committee.

"I believe that research and development as well as the technological innovation is important in further growing and developing the country's agriculture sector," she also said.

The building of the Lloyd Evans Plant Growth Facility, Villar said, is very relevant because the Philippines has been considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

A recent United Nations report identified the Philippines the third-most at-risk from climate change in the world. It was ranked behind the South Pacific island nations of Vanuatu (with a population of 255,000) and Tonga (with a population 0f 105,000).

Another report--the Global Climate Risk Index 2015, released by Environmental organization German Watch on December 3 last year, posted the Philippines No. 1 in the list of countries most affected by disasters like storms and floods.

"Problems due to climate change are realities that we Filipinos have been facing, particularly in recent years when extreme weather conditions such as super typhoons, massive flooding, El Niño and La Niña phenomena, among others, have been causing death and destruction in our country," she said.

The senator acknowledged this is definitely bad news for the most vulnerable groups in our society -- those living in flood-prone urban and rural areas and coastal communities, mostly indigent families.

As an agricultural country, she said, the Philippines posts tremendous losses from the onslaught of environmental disasters.

She said damage to agriculture caused by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) reached over P90 billion or about US$2 billion because it struck between two planting seasons. Our food supply and food security was also affected by the super typhoon.

In fact, she noted that it was only in August last year when our farmers have started harvesting crops from what they replanted after the super typhoon in November 2013.

"So, a facility that offers a chance to nurture and study plants, particularly rice, in a controlled environment is very relevant and useful especially with the pronouncements of experts cite about ill effects of climate change," added the senator.

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