The Department of Agriculture (DA) honored eight Filipino biotechnology experts in this year’s Faces of Biotechnology Award held on Dec. 2.
The award is given by the Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO) “to outstanding Filipino individuals who have played a significant role in the advancement of biotechnology in the country.”
DA Secretary William Dar said that the contributions of the awardees to the country’s agricultural landscape “are truly inspiring and motivational.”
He emphasized the potential of biotechnology to aid local farmers and fisherfolk in solving the country’s key problems in agriculture.
“Biotech needs champions who could reach more farmers and fisherfolk and harness the potential of biotech in solving our current agri issues,” he said.
This year’s program was held in person to celebrate awardees for both 2020 and 2021. Restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic postponed last year’s in-person awarding ceremony.
The 2020 awardees include Arthur Baria, Dr. Teresita Espino, Dr. Ma. Carmen Lagman, and Dr. Mary Beth Maningas.
Baria, who is also the Assistant Vice President and Agri-Business Head of Nestlé Philippines, was recognized for his leadership in the development of a sustainable source of green coffee. He also paved the way for research on genetically modified corn which changed the country’s agricultural industry.
As one of the country’s most notable biotechnologists, Espino was honored for her work in enzyme and monoclonal antibody technology. Her agricultural contributions include banana and abaca disease control and rehabilitation programs that greatly aided small farmers.
On the other hand, Lagman was awarded for her contributions in teaching and research and development on marine biotechnology. She played a significant role in the establishment of the Practical Genomics Laboratory at De La Salle University. Her work has a significant impact on aquaculture, fisheries, and agriculture.
Finally, aquatic biotechnology pioneer Maningas was honored for her innovations that helped shrimp farmers in detecting white spot syndrome virus through a low-cost rapid test kit. She also helped in advancing aquatic research by leading the acquisition of various multi-million grants from international and local funding agencies.
Meanwhile, 2021 citations include two posthumous awards for Dr. Ramon Barba and Juanito Rama. Also awarded are Dr. Glenn Gregorio and Alicia Ilaga.
Barba was a National Scientist who pioneered research on tropical crops and horticulture. His work allowed the year-round production of mangoes which were recognized and adopted all over the world.
Rama, a leader in biotech farming and agricultural biology, was recognized for his and his team’s remarkable success in producing a “record-breaking” 200,000-kilogram harvest of yellow corn per hectare.
On the other hand, Gregorio was honored for his studies that led to the production of salt-tolerant rice varieties. Apart from being an advocate for agricultural biotechnology, he is also a plant breeder and educator, serving as a director at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture and a professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
Illaga is a staunch advocate for agricultural biotechnology. She supported various efforts to develop laboratories, along with the DA’s biotechnology centers. She played a key role in developing campaigns in promoting biotechnology in the country. DZUP