RP, Korea ink 5-year cooperative pact on agriculture
Manila, June 2 (PNA) -- The Philippines and Korea have forged a five-year cooperative agreement to promote and develop agricultural, scientific and technical cooperation between the two countries through mutual assistance in the areas of research and development (R&D), technology transfer, education and personnel training.
Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, who is in Seoul, South Korea with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, on Monday said the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) urges both parties to "propose joint projects aimed at specific areas of cooperation" that could be undertaken in tandem with other organizations, including international funding agencies.
The MOU also calls on both parties to carry out R&D projects on agriculture and livestock comprising the engineering/automation, plant science, animal science, genetic resource development and advanced biology, bioenergy, agri-ecology and environmental sciences, and postharvest technologies to prolong the shelf life of tropical fruits.
Agriculture Undersecretary Berna Romulo Puyat said the activities covered by the agreement include the exchange of staff members, researchers, fellows and experts; joint research; participation in seminars and scientific and technical meetings; exchange of training materials, research papers, and other information; development of research programs/projects or training activities; exchange of plant and animal germplasm with their inventories and breeding materials on a reciprocal basis in accordance with due formalities stipulated in the regulations of each country; and the exchange of technology, facilities and equipment.
She said one benefit of the MOU was that the research and development administration (RDA) can transfer general postharvest technology to producers of Philippine mangoes to reduce the fruit's decomposing rate as well as delay or suppress micro-organism activity and the production of ethylene to extend the freshness of tropical fruits by 20-30 percent.
The technology to increase the shelf life of fruits would enable the Philippines to export fresh fruits to the European Union and other distant country markets more competitively, she said, by allowing exporters to ship the commodities instead of transporting them by air -- effectively lowering transport costs and end-consumer prices.
The agrioculture department also signed separate agreements with two Korean bioenergy companies to develop idle lands in the Philippines for biofuel feedstock production.
The signing of the agreements, which were among the accords forged between Manila and Seoul during President Arroyo's official visit to the Republic of Korea last May 30-31, involves the investment of US$ 600 million to develop lands for biofuels feedstock and improve the living standards of Filipino farmers.
Yap said that the areas to be developed under the agreement with Environment Plasma Co. Ltd. (EPCL) and Eco Solutions Co. Ltd. would not jeopardize the government's food security targets, because the Department of Agriculture would ensure that only idle or underdeveloped areas would be used for biofuels production.
He assured that there would never be a conflict between the production of crops for food and biofuel feedstock as the DA prioritized the country's food requirements over its energy needs.
Yap said the MOU with EPCL aimed to develop and establish biofuels feedstock farms and study the possibility of setting up a bioethanol production plant in the Philippines while the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with ECOS hoped to set up commercialized biodiesel feedstock plantations, oil mills and a refinery to supply the Philippine biodiesel requirement and maximize profit through exporting Jatropha products abroad.
Under the agreement, EPCL will assure the market for sugarcane to be produced in Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Bataan, and Zambales, by way of establishing an ethanol plant with an annual capacity of 150 million liters while ECOS will guarantee market for jatropha in General Santos and Sarangani with a yearly production capacity of 60 million liters.
The two Korean Bioenergy firms would also ensure investments to the Philippines worth US$ 600 million for the complete and timely implementation of the project, said Puyat.
She said that under the agreement, the EPCL would provide assistance in the identification of varieties of sugarcane for cultivation trials and share its knowledge in undertaking such activities as well as the design engineering and machinery supply required for the exploitation of sugarcane plantations and the setting up of a bioethanol plant.
On the other hand, the agreement with ECOS will establish commercial jatropha plantations and oil mills to promote economic activities in the Philippines through biofuels farming business to increase the income of the farmers and to utilize the productivity of marginal idle lands for bioenergy production.
The Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corp. (PADCC), the corporate arm of the DA mandated to handle agribusiness investments, will provide the necessary information to the EPCL and ECOS for the development and completion of the projects. (PNA) [top]