In a move to raise the level of agricultural market access for the country’s tropical fruits, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO)in Taipei hopes to export the Philippines’ succulent papayas, fresh mangoes and bananas to Taiwan starting in 2009. “We at MECO are pushing for the conclusion of our market access talks with Taiwan in 2009 with regards to our top agricultural products,” said MECO Managing Director and Resident Representative Antonio I. Basilio. Basilio said they remain hopeful they will be able to convince Taiwan to open its market for local mangoes, papayas and bananas.
“Our tropical fruits, particularly our mangoes, are extremely juicy, luscious and of superior quality. Quality is key to Taiwan’s fruit and vegetable market, and we are confident that the Philippines’ agricultural produce will meet the exacting requirements of the Taiwanese consumer,” he said. The Philippines also produces export-quality papayas, according to Basilio.
“The smooth-textured, vitamin C-packed fruit has skin color that ranges from pale green, orange to rose and has yellow to orange flesh. The country’s fresh bananas are delicately sweet, with a creamy and chewy flesh. The products are our next big-export items to Taiwan,” Basilio said.
In 2008, MECO stepped up its drive to increase the Philippines’ agricultural and fishery exports to Taiwan through market-access agreements with Taipei’s Council of Agriculture. MECO and the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture were hoping to secure market access commitments from Taipei that would allow the export of the country’s premium mangoes, bananas and papayas to the affluent Taiwanese market. MECO also pushed for the broadening of opportunities for cooperation in the field of livestock biotechnology and research capability. Basilio said the component of MECO’s proposed development cooperation includes exchange of knowledge, skills, resources and technical knowhow among experts that would strengthen human resources capabilities and R&D collaboration.
Topping the agenda of Taiwan’s biotech experts and their Filipino counterparts is the goose that lays the ‘golden egg’ – the ‘Pateros’ duck. “In 2008, a Duck Technical Team from Taiwan visited the Philippines to assess the local duck industry as requested by the Department of Agriculture’s Livestock Development Council,” Basilio said. He added that the Taiwanese technical team made a number of major recommendations, including a systematic and vigorous campaign to upgrade the ‘Pateros’ breed, the mainstay of the local duck industry, through artificial insemination, improved feeding program, and better farm management.
Through MECO’s initiatives, the Philippines’ duck-rearing industry has been receiving a lot of help from Taiwan, particularly from the Yilan branch -– an area located in the northeastern part of Taiwan – of Taiwan’s Livestock Research Institute.
Manila has also proposed the acquisition of fertilized eggs of superior breeds of ducks to upgrade the country’s existing breeds and improve production efficiency, according to Basilio.
Basilio said the Philippines will also pursue joint research and development programs on animal biotechnology with Taiwan; continue the Philippines’ ongoing partnership with Taiwan on Rapid Bio-Assay for Pesticide Residue; strengthen the existing partnership between MECO and Taiwan’s Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asia-Pacific Region; re-engage with Taiwan’s Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center for the implementation of vegetable projects in the Philippines in partnership with the world’s largest vegetable gene bank; and to sustain efforts to establish satellite imaging and remote sensing capability to monitor and assess rice paddy production in the country.
Basilio further said that the Philippines would continue to provide funding and other means of support to Department of Agriculture investment missions on corn commercialization, mariculture projects, reforestation and rubber plantations. “MECO, with the help of our Taiwan partners and the Philippines’ governmental agencies, has clinched phenomenal accomplishments in the field of agriculture in 2008,” Basilio said.
In early 2008, Taipei conducted several training sessions on bio-assay for pesticide residues in the Philippines that drew the participation of Pesticide Analytical Laboratories personnel. One of the sessions was conducted in Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental in March. The Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute and the Laboratory Services Division of the Bureau of Plant Industry co-sponsored the event. “In response (to our request), Taiwan invited Philippine experts to observe the whole system of bio-assay testing on chemical residues starting from the farm level to the marketplace. In addition, visits to farm cooperatives for the grading and Certified Agricultural Standards/Good Agricultural Practices accreditation system for quality and safety of fruits and vegetables had also been arranged,” Basilio said.
Aalso in 2008, Taiwanese corn hybrids were planted in two 25-hectare clusters in Bacuag, Surigao del Norte, and Bayugan, Agusan del Sur. The project’s key objective is to familiarize Filipino corn farmers in northern Mindanao with the Taiwanese way of growing corn, including the need to regularly use hybrid seeds and appropriate machinery and equipment to ensure greater productivity, according to Basilio. The Taiwanese government provided corn hybrids, developed and tested in Taiwan, for testing under northern Mindanao conditions. Four hybrids — two white corn and two yellow corn varieties — were selected from a batch of hybrids screen-tested in the demonstration farm inside the Northern Mindanao State Institute of Science and Technology (NORMISIST) campus. All four hybrids registered high yields and good adaptability to local conditions, according to the institute.
MECO has identified four agriculture-based biotechnology projects that Taiwan and the Philippines could pursue, namely: Field trial of Taiwan ‘sweet’ rice in the Philippines; training on rice bran oil and silica gel extraction; technology transfer on fry production systems (shrimp and grouper) with quality assurance; and testing of Taiwan’s genetically modified plant-made pharmaceuticals in the Philippines.
“Taiwan has suggested that young Filipino scientists undergo training through a series of courses of the identified technology at relevant research institutes in Taiwan. The Philippines’ young scientists may also apply for a Taiwan scholarship for masteral and advance studies in Taiwan through TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) in Manila,” Basilio said.
This year, MECO also facilitated a P10-million donation from Taiwan. The fund was used by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)for the rehabilitation of its typhoon-damaged Tanay Weather Station. The rehabilitation project has since been completed and turned over to the Department of ScieCnce and Technology.