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Cablegate: Ambassador Spotlights Philippine Agricultural Centers

VZCZCXYZ0012
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #0669 0741047
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141047Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0156
INFO RUEHRC/USDA WASHDC
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

UNCLAS MANILA 000669

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON EAGR EAID RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR SPOTLIGHTS PHILIPPINE AGRICULTURAL CENTERS

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Ambassador traveled to Nueva Ecija, a major
rice-producing province in Philippines, where she highlighted
thriving agricultural projects. Her visit brought special attention
to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the
Philippine Carabao Center, both affiliated with the Philippine
Department of Agriculture. The Ambassador engaged researchers,
farmers, and local political leaders. The trip received broad
regional media coverage and also coverage in three national daily
papers. END SUMMARY.

BACKGROUND: RICE BASKET OF THE PHILIPPINES

2. (U) Nueva Ecija is the main rice-growing province in central
Luzon. The average Filipino consumes 111 kilograms of rice
annually, and the Philippines currently imports 15-20 percent of its
rice. Coincidentally, recent national media reports highlight
growing concerns about rising rice import prices. Since 2001, about
$5.5 million of PL480 Title I proceeds were used to support the
Philippine Department of Agriculture's biotechnology program,
including many projects being implemented by PhilRice and Philippine
Carabao Center. USDA, USAID and Peace Corps currently operate many
programs in this province where 37 percent of the population lives
below poverty level.

SCIENCE CITY OF MUNOZ, HOME OF PET PROJECTS

3. (SBU) The Science City of Munoz is a pocket of well-funded
institutions created by influential politicians in Manila.
Ferdinand Marcos funded PhilRice in 1986. Former President Estrada
championed the Philippine Carabao Center when he was an opposition
senator. Additionally, Munoz is home to the Farmers' Training
Institute, National Seed Center, National Watershed Management
Center, Freshwater Aquaculture Center, National Farm Mechanization
Center, National Small Ruminants Centers and the Central Luzon State
University. Each center has high-level political supporters in
Manila.

PHILIPPINE RICE RESEARCH INSTITUTE FORTIFIES RICE

4. (U) Ambassador Kenney visited the PhilRice for the annual
Farmer's Field Day and Rice R&D conference where a record 1,500
participants were present. This three-day event held annually by
PhilRice brings together farmers, research and development
scientists, and other experts to demonstrate firsthand new and
updated techniques that could enhance productivity and
sustainability of the rice industry. While none of the biofuel
technologies presented is currently economically feasible, many of
the hybrid rice varieties show promise for increasing production and
reducing malnutrition in the Philippines. This institute recently
opened an intellectual property rights office using proceeds from
USDA PL480 donations. Many of the distinguished researchers
received their educations at US universities through
Agricultural-Fulbright, USDA Cochran Fellowship Program, and
fellowships from private US foundations. Ambassador delivered the
keynote speech for one event, stressing the strong partnership our
two countries share on agriculture.

PHILIPPINE CARABAO CENTER MATCHING IRREGULAR CHROMOSOME NUMBERS

5. (U) The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) bred the first "improved
carabao" (genetically engineered water buffalo) in 2004. 99 percent
of carabaos are owned or leased by rural families operating below
the poverty line. The program aims to maximize the indigenous water
buffalo for milk and meat while continuing their use as draft
animals. The ability to earn secondary income from milking a
buffalo is often enough to lift a family over the poverty line.
This center is breeding Indian and American buffalos with native
buffalos, and hopes that many of the new techniques will be useful
for breeding cattle and other farm animals worldwide.

KENNEY

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