Six new centers for research and development (R&D) have been allocated a total budget of P208,861,783.92 in order to boost regional development in the country on a par with international standards.

The projects are initiated under the Niche Centers in the Regions (Nicer) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

At the recent online news conference themed, “Regional Resiliency: Equipping Agriculture for the Future,” the new Nicers that were presented focused on agriculture, aquatic and natural resources, a sector to which the country is heavily dependent on health, nutrition, food security, and food safety.

“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,” Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña told the online event hosted by the DOST-Office of the Undersecretary for R&D.

“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,” de la Peña added.

The Nicer Program capacitates Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the regions to make significant improvement in regional research by integrating its development needs with the existing R&D capabilities and resources.

It provides institutional grants to regional HEIs for R&D capacity building to improve their S&T infrastructure.

Nicer is a component of the Science for Change Program of the DOST.

The first three centers presented at the online event were related to the Crops R&D.

The Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte 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 has continuously perform 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.

The local plant variety Queen Pineapple will have a center dedicated to its enhancement through the Camarines Norte State College.

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.

The third Nicer is the Center for Cacao R&D from the University of Southern Mindanao. The center will provide interventions in increasing cacao production through multiplication and utilization of Quality Planting Materials.

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 percent.

For Nicers related to Livestock, Forestry and Environment R&D, the Native Chicken R&D Center from the Western Mindanao State University is built.

This aims to accelerate the production of quality breeder stocks through enhanced breeding, feeding, and production management strategies suitable for native chickens.

The  Central Mindanao University focused on a Bamboo R&D Center to 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.

Meanwhile, a Nicer on Cave Ecosystems Research is set in the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

It aims 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.

“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,” said 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,” Guevara added.

The establishment of theNicer] 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, said DOST Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho A. Mabborang.

“Having an approved Nicer is a prestige for institutions, an acknowledgement of the R&D strength, competence and track record of the engaged institutions along the identified R&D,” Mabborang said.

S&T Media Services

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