RP can be global biotech player, says international expert
- Rocel Felix () - July 4, 2006 - 12:00am
The Philippines has the potential to become a significant player and find its niche in the growing multi-billion dollar global biotechnology industry in five years, said Dr. Hector Quemada, a US-based internationally-renowned biotechnology and bio-enterprise expert.

"The Philippines is off to a good start. Based on ongoing research of Filipino scientists on transgenic product development, there are already several agricultural products that could be commercialized in three to five years," said Quemada in yesterday’s briefing on the 2006 Biotechnology Week held at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management.

Quemada, a consultant of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and program manager of the Program for Biosafety Systems-Biotechnology Biodiversity Interface Program (PBS-BBI), said that to boost the country’s bid to translate cutting-edge biotechnology into profitable enterprises, the government should put in place regulatory mechanisms to encourage more private sector investments in the biotech sector.

"There is a significant economic opportunity for the Philippines to really move forward and use biotechnology as a real tool for economic development but regulatory requirements have to be predictable and stable if government wants more private sector investments because these minimizes the already huge risks of venturing into biotech. The regulations have to be reasonable and ensure the safety not only of the products but also of the environment and consumers," added Quemada.

He noted that government also has to develop and support local scientists’ efforts to move researches into the market. "Supporting and protecting discoveries and putting in place policies to maximize value from intellectual property, investment incentives and appropriate regulatory environment should be stressed."

Department of Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro said the government recognizes biotechnology as the new sunrise industry but admitted that existing bio-based ventures face tremendous constraints.

"We have developed the core competency and basic infrastructure for various levels and applications of biotech research and product development. However, there are critical elements that are still wanting, including the lack of private investments in bio-research and bio-enterprise. There is a weakness in public-private sector linkage that could endanger fruitful partnerships," noted Alabastro.

She said however, that government is now moving to beef up collaboration with the private sector for bio-enterprise development.

"The industry stands to benefit from various potentials of biotechnology and the government’s focus in the years to follow would be to provide that entrepreneurial climate to boost our competitive position in the global bio-enterprise," said Albastro.

The rapid growth of biotech enterprises worldwide is encouraging developing countries like the Philippines to secure a big chunk of both the domestic and world market.

The market for biotechnology is estimated at $15 billion for the energy sector, the biotech food market as high as $12 billion, chemicals at $10 billion, health care at $8.5 billion, agriculture at $8 billion, metal recovery at $4 billion, and pollution control at $400 million.

Thus, the the local agriculture sector is increasingly turning to agricultural biotechnology to modernize food production and diversify product outputs.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) previously announced the commercialization in three to five years of several "Pinoy Biotek" products such as the cloned "Super Buffalo" of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC). The "Super Buffalo" is bigger in size and produces more milk than the native carabao.

The Institute of Plant Breeding of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños is also working on Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) eggplant that would be resistant to insects such as whitefly.

BILLION BIOSAFETY SYSTEMS-BIOTECHNOLOGY BIODIVERSITY INTERFACE PROGRAM BIOTECHNOLOGY BIOTECHNOLOGY WEEK BUREAU OF SOILS AND WATER MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SECRETARY ESTRELLA ALABASTRO DR. HECTOR QUEMADA QUEMADA SUPER BUFFALO
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