Six Philippine state universities are building Research & Development Centers to help boost regional development after being named the new Niche Centers in the Regions (NICER) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
University of the Philippines – Los Baños, Mariano Marcos State University, Camarines Norte State College, University of Southern Mindanao, Western Mindanao State University, and Central Mindanao University were identified in a virtual launch on September 14, 2021, as the new additions to the NICER network of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) which will be provided institutional grants for R&D capacity building to improve their science and technology infrastructure.
The six universities will conduct intensified research and development on cave systems and biodiversity, bamboo manufacturing, native chicken breeding, cacao production, queen pineapple advancement, and garlic industry intervention.
DOST also announced that the six centers have an allocated total budget of PHP208,861,783.92, given to top universities in the provinces.
The first three centers presented were related to the Crops R&D:
1. The Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Ilocos will build a Garlic and Other Agri-Food Condiments R&D Center. This NICER will provide S&T-based interventions to revitalize the dwindling garlic industry. It is continuously performing activities in improving the garlic genetic resources and productivity through the development of an integrated crop management system, enhancing the curing and storage of garlic practices in the Philippines.
2. The Camarines Norte State College (CNSC) will have a center dedicated to the enhancement of local plant variety Queen Pineapple. The center will undertake comprehensive research on the advancement of Queen Pineapple to enhance its productivity and marketability. The center will develop software for pest detection, classification, and crop protection management systems.
3. The University of Southern Mindanao (USM) will be the Center for Cacao R&D. This NICER will provide interventions in increasing cacao production through multiplication and utilization of Quality Planting Materials (QPMs). The process will upgrade the local cacao gene bank and optimize post-harvesting processes to generate improved cacao beans to improve the income of farmers by 30 to 40%.
The next three NICERs are related to Livestock, Forestry, and Environment R&D:
4. The Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) houses the Native Chicken R&D Center. This NICER will accelerate the production of quality breeder stocks through enhanced breeding, feeding, and production management strategies suitable for native chickens.
5. The Central Mindanao University (CMU) focuses on a Bamboo R&D Center. The center will provide intervention on quality standards and processing protocols of locally manufactured Bamboo. This NICER seeks to establish the bamboo economic value chain and geo-databases of bamboo resources and enterprise; explore other potential uses of bamboo for sustainable development, climate change resilience, and adaptation; and evaluate the growth and survival performance of cloned economically important bamboo species planted in disturbed sites.
6. The University of the Philippines – Los Baños is set up to study the biodiversity of terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates (birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and land snails) of selected caves and karst areas using various field techniques to generate baseline data important for cave biodiversity management, a NICER on Cave Ecosystems Research.
In the virtual press conference hosted by the DOST-Office of the Undersecretary for Research and Development (R&D), Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said:
“We have abundant natural resources scattered across the 17 regions. These resources have generated employment and have become the source of living for many of our kababayans. But for these resources to continually sustain us, we need to take actions to sustain them as well. Through the NICER centers, our local products and commodities will be nurtured and developed, and in turn, boost the regional economy.”
“The establishment of the Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) is just one of the many initiatives of the DOST through the DOST Regional Offices that are intended to help accelerate the development in the regions,” related DOST Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho A. Mabborang. “Having an approved NICER is a prestige for institutions –an acknowledgment of the R&D strength, competence, and track record of the engaged institutions along with the identified R&D.”
“Through the NICER R&D Centers, we hope to promote regional resiliency by providing small-scale farmers with S&T-based aquaculture systems, livestock systems, crop production, and integrated farming systems,” says DOST Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “R&D enables us to support more farmers and encourage young agripreneurs to take advantage of opportunities for innovation and contribute to the continued economic growth of the country.”
The DOST NICER program is also benefitting the Philippines’ lakes to ensure water resource sustainability. The NICER studies are also part of the 21 high-impact technologies and R&D projects in the Big 21 in 2021 which DOST Philippines introduced to the public in early September.
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