The government is establishing the Philippine Rubber Research Institute (PRRI) in a 1,000-hectare area in Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay which will maximize the potential of this P10 billion export-oriented crop.
The site will be donated by the Zamboanga Sibugay local government unit in support of an industry with huge potential of contributing to Philippine industrialization, according to Zamboanga Sibugay Gov. Rommel A. Jalosjos.
Strategically located near the Mindanao State University (MSU) campus in Naga, PRRI will help boost rubber’s potential in light of industrial manufacturers’ preference for nature-friendly materials as a climate change-mitigating effort.
PRRI will institutionalize and sustain researches funded by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR).
These total to 10 programs spread across rubber-growing provinces Zamboanga, Cotabato, and Basilan, according to Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar, BAR Director.
“PRRI should become at par with the rubber institutes in Malaysia, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China that have been developing new superior rubber varieties,” Eleazar said.
These research centers have produced rubber clones that are high-yielding, disease-resistant, and with reduced gestation period that allows latex extraction in 4.5 years, much shorter than the five to 10 years range.
BAR is supporting the issuance of an implementing rules and regulation for PRRI which will precede budget allocation, according to BAR Coordinator Rudy L. Galang.
“With the draft IRR to be submitted for approval by DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, the national government will allocate a budget of P100 Million for PRRI for 2012, its first year of implementation. This is equivalent to one percent of the gross value added of rubber,” said Galang.
PRRI will enhance rubber research and development programs including establishment of a nursery or a garden for budwood, a shoot or stem of a plant bearing buds suitable for bud grafting.
To enhance farmers’ management practices, they will be trained on fertilization, weed, insect, and disease control, control of mollusks and vertebrates, harvesting, and packing of budwoods and budsticks.
The facilities that will be available in the PRRI are tissue culture laboratory, rubber testing laboratory, product testing laboratory, seedling nurseries, germplasm collections, semi-processing plants, waste water collection and testing facilities. DA will share with PRRI the use of some of these facilities found in DA’s provincial office in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay
“What is important here is a good amount of land where we will test for superior varieties of rubber and grow massive amount of seedlings,” said Galang.
The country’s average dry rubber yield at present is around 1.5 metric tons (MT) per hectare which is lower than the maximum potential of RRIM 600 of two MT per hectare per year.
The 1,000-hectare area will primarily be an experimental station for breeding and selection of high yielding cultivars.
“New genetic materials should be collected from rubber producing countries to enable plant breeders to develop new clones that will perform well even in non-traditional areas,” said Eleazar.
Collaboration with other countries is aimed to generate good varieties resistant to drought and strong wind, enabling planting in coastal areas.
Genetic engineering and biotechnology will be used to generate value-added pharmaceutical products and special industrial-type latex. Quality control and marketing schemes, and environment-friendly and pollution-free manufacturing systems will be established.
PRRI will serve as a certification and testing center for rubber.
This, specifically, will be for physical testing and sampling of rubber products, round robin cross checks (a high standard of testing), rubber engineering testing for vendors, chemical analysis of rubber and rubber compounds or ingredients, latex testing, and rubber effluent testing.
Farmers stand to improve their income with the growth of rubber industry as market price in the world market has been very attractive at $4,000-5,000 per metric ton (MT) for semi-processed rubber.
At present, there is an estimated 130,000 hectares of rubber land. Expansion of rubber plantations should enable Philippines to expand its market as the world demand for natural rubber was previously estimated to reach to 12.4 million metric tons (MT) by 2020.
Rubber is also eyed as an erosion control, reforestation, and environmental preservation crop as it is biodegradable and is not petroleum-based, unlike synthetic rubbers.
The establishment of PRRI is sanctioned by Republic Act 10089 ratified in May 2010. A technical working group is now deliberating the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the law.
The IRR indicates government will introduce incentives for private enterprises to invest in rubber-based livelihood programs, train and accredit rubber budders and tappers, regulate rubber cropping systems that will maximize rubber productivity, and raise quality of semi-processed rubber monitored by the Philippine Rubber Testing Center.
As of March 2011, BAR-funded rubber programs include Developing Baseline Information System for rubber; Potential Major Diseases of Rubber in rubber-growing provinces; White-Corn based Farming System under Newly Developed Rubber Plantation in South Cotabato; and Rubber-based Farming Systems in Western Mindanao and Basilan.
The rest of its R &D programs are Rapid Propagation of Rubber via Somatic Embryogenesis; Developing Molecular Marker Kit for Identification and Authentication of Hevea Clone; Rubber Development for Southern Mindanao; Production of Promising Clones of Rubber Using Improved Nursery Management; and Technology on Rubber Nursery for Quality Planting Materials. BAR-DA