With the objective to discuss the major project and programs of ICC and to know more about the development activities being carried out by Philippines Coconut Authority (PCA) and to identify the required facilitation and supports from ICC and other international organizations, Dr. Jelfina C.Alouw, Executive Director and Ms. Mridula Kottekate, Assistant Director, ICC visited Philippines Coconut Authority main office in Manila and Research Centres in Davao and Zamboanga.
Philippines Coconut Authority (PCA), Quezon City Manila
Upon arrival at PCA office, Manila on 3rd July ED and AD were warmly welcomed by Mr. Bernie F. Cruz, Administrator, and Mr. Atity Lucius Jun-Jun G. Malsi, Deputy Administrator, Administration & Finance. A meeting was arranged in the meeting room of PCA in which Mrs. Erlene Manohar, Cogent Coordinator and Dr. Johnny Batalon, Deputy Director for R & D of PCAARRD participated. The main agenda for the discussion was the support of PCA and PCAARRD for the upcoming International Scientific Conference (ISC) under ICC-Cogent program from 27-30 November at the conference hall of Los Baños.
Mr. Cruz, Administrator, welcomed and informed the successful celebration of the 50th Anniversary of PCA in June 2023 with the invaluable presence of His Excellency the President of the Philippines who is also the Secretary of Agriculture to supports the coconut development in the country. He emphasized the need for a feasible tissue culture technology to accelerate the availability of quality planting materials for replanting program in the Philippines to increase coconut production. He also expressed his full support for the successful conduct of the ISC as local organizer.
Dr. Jelfina expressed her heartful thanks and gratitude to Administrator for agreeing for this courtesy meeting. She ascertained the full support of ICC to facilitate the capacity building requirement and adoption of tissue culture technologies developed by research institutes in Sri Lanka and Belgium. She suggested to either depute the PCA tissue culture researchers to CRI and Bioversity International & CIAT Belgium to learn the technologies or inviting experts from Sri Lanka and collaborating with the institute to help to address critical issues and to optimize the technology including acclimatization process. Dr. Johnny, DD PCAARRD informed that PCAARRD is supporting the TC program of PCA under the Govt of Philippines Coco Levy Trust fund. Mrs. Erlene Manohar Cogent, Coordinator briefly presented the progress of preparation of ISC and the needs for successful implementation of the conference. There was in depth and fruitful discussion on the various programs and projects of PCA and ICC.
Davao Research Centre (DRC)
Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, Executive Director and Ms. Mridula Kottekate, Assistant Director, visited the Davao Research Centre of Philippines Coconut Authority on 5th July 2023.
Dr. Liberty Canja, Department Manager and Mrs. Johana Orense, Division Chief welcomed ICC executive staff on arrival at the centre, which is located 18 km from proper city in Bago-Oshiro Davao City. They introduced the team of researchers and staff of the centre. The total area of the centre is 189 ha and having two main research divisions Agronomy, Soils and Farming System division and Integrated Crop Protection Division.
Dr. Canja presented a video of the activities of the centre and informed that the centre has been established in 1966 and has completed 57 years of its establishment in 2023. The main mission of the centre is to generate information and technologies in the fields of mineral nutrition, cultural management and coconut intercropping and integrated pest and disease control.
Dr. Jelfina in her address appreciated the activities being carrying out by the centre and congratulated for completing 57th Year of the establishment of the centre. There were detail discussion on capacity building programs, different coconut agronomic practices including plant protection aspects, breeding program, coir and coir pith production for retaining soil moisture, and other global issue such as greenhouse gas emission, current development of coconut as the source of energy and the projection of market demand of coconut oil from non-standard coconut as Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The potency of coconut palms and farms in contributing to the global efforts for achieving the target of net zero, the challenges and future direction, including ICC’s program to hold international seminar on carbon sequestration and carbon credit in Indonesia were also discussed. The meeting concluded with the presentation of ICC plaque of appreciation to the Centre.
ICC Secretariat had a great visits to the different laboratories of the Centre including crop protection, breeding and pollen propagation laboratories, and had fruitful discussion with the scientists and technical people.
Mrs. Johana explained the plant protection activities of the centre and shown the biocontrol agents developed by the centre against the scale insects of coconut as well as CRB during the visit to Biocontrol laboratory. They multiply the bioagents in the laboratory and released in the farmers field. In coconut breeding laboratory, the breeder showed the pollen preparation protocol and storage before distributing them to the farmers and other stakeholders through the regional offices of the PCA under farmer assisted breeding program implemented using Coconut Levy Trust fund of Government of the Philippines.
The activities of the Agronomy, Soil and Farming System were explained by Dr. Canja. She presented a copy of the book on “Integrated Crop Management for Coconut Agroecosystems: A Compendium of Information through the Years” volume 1 released by the centre on its 56th Foundation Anniversary in 2022.
From the centre we have been taken to National Coconut-Dairy Training Center, Malagos Garden on chocolate processing where we witnessed the processing of cocoa to chocolate. The visit and discussion were very productive and fruitful.
Zamboanga Research Centre (ZRC)
Visited the Zamboanga Research Centre (ZRC) on 6th and 7th July 2023. Dr. Liberty Canja and Mrs. Johana Orense accompanied from Davao to the ZRC.
Upon arrival at ZRC, ED and AD met with Mr. Luisito Penamora, Acting Department Manager, and his full team of Researchers. Dr. Cristeta Cueto, Department Manager, Albay Research Centre also joined the team at ZRC.
ZRC is located in San Ramon, Zamboanga City 22 km away from the main city. The centre is having total area of 415.3 ha. Mainly two research divisions are functioning at ZRC: Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Utilization, and Non Food Product Development Division. This is one of the centre maintaining around 263 accessions under National Coconut Genebank. The Mission of the centre is to generate technologies on varietal improvement, palm products and farm waste utilization and farming systems.
A meeting was arranged in the centre where in Mr. Leso Jess G. Baya, a Science Research Specialist of the centre and Dr. Gerardo B. Baylon, a breeder presented the activities of the centre mainly the Non Food Product Development Division. They have tried many by products from coir and coconut water and developed the machineries for minimal processing, prototype tree climbing machine, charcoal briquette machinery, deshelling of coconut, coir production and processing machine, green coconut husk chopper and chips maker. The centre is also making briquette from coconut shell. Dr. Rico, consultant explained that PCA-ZRC is also producing products as Tree of Life: medicine, food, fiber and shelter materials. As Tree of Energy, it also produce the three fuels biomass/solid, liquid biofuels and wood gas. Dr. Rico also mentioned that the tannin content from coconut husk is processed as natural dye. The centre displayed the different coconut accessions maintained in the centre and briefed about the different open pollinated coconut varieties of tall and dwarf.
Dr. Jelfina appreciated and thanked the in charge Mr. Luisito for such warm welcome. She added that ICC is impressed with the activities of the centre and would like to request if ZRC can be one of the capacity building centre for the interested officers from the ICC member countries who would like to get the training and technologies in the non-food sector mainly in the biofuels coir and coir products. She further mentioned about the Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) processed from non-standard coconut and the plan of Japan Government to propose the non-standard coconut as a feedstock of SAF in the positive list of the UN-International Civil Aviation (ICAO).
ICC secretariat team visited the Tissue Culture (TC) laboratory at the centre where many plantlets are micro propagated. One of the major challenges they were facing was the low success rate of the acclimatization phase, from which a potential collaboration with TC laboratory experiencing higher success rate such as CRI-SL could be a better solution as suggested by Dr. Jelfina. The team also demonstrated the coconut sugar making from the freshly harvested inflorescence sap.
The Non Food Product Development Division and Bio mass and Biofuels laboratory division demonstrated the functioning of different machineries they developed and making of biodiesel’s from coconut oil and how the vehicle is working using the biofuel. The centre has developed their own copra dryer. Also doing trial by using coconut fibre and husk as media for mushroom production.
Dr. Neil J. Melencion, Regional Manager explained the processing of biodiesel through transesterification process of using ethanol production from coconut palm inflorescence saps, coconut oil, and catalyst extracted from coconut husk. The division also prepares hand sanitizers, soap and detergents. It has been informed that during pandemic the division supplied the hand sanitizers to all the staff of the centres. The future plan of the centre is to make value added products from coconut water and haustorium which is getting wasted during the processing of crude coconut oil.
The team also met with senior coconut breeder. Mr. Ramon Rivera, former Deputy Administrator, R&D and he shared his experience as the former in charge of the centre and thanked ICC for visiting the centre and learning the activities being carrying out there. He assured that the centre can be considered as one of the training centre for ICC’s future programs.
The visit to the ZRC centres and meeting with the researchers and consultants of the centre were very productive and informative. The team were delighted to see a lot of progress in the development of coconut technology mainly in the non-food sector. The meeting and visit was concluded with the presentation ICC plaque of appreciation to the centre.