DOST unveils six new NICERs set to boost regional dev’t

The Department of Science and Technology unveiled six new Niche Centers in the Regions (NICER) for R&D set to boost regional development in the country to international standards. The six centers have an allocated total budget of P208,861,783.92, given to top universities in the provinces.

In a virtual press conference hosted by the DOST-Office of the Undersecretary for Research and Development (R&D), the event themed: “Regional Resiliency: Equipping Agriculture for the Future,” focused on centers related to agriculture, aquatic and natural resources (AANR) –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,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato T. dela Peña. “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.”

“The establishment of the Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) 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,” related 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.”

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 for HEIs in the regions for R&D capacity building to improve their S&T infrastructure.

The first three centers presented were related to the Crops R&D. The Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Ilocos 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 is continuously performing 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 (CNSC). 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 presented is the Center for Cacao R&D from the University of Southern Mindanao (USM). This NICER will provide interventions in increasing cacao production through multiplication and utilization of Quality Planting Materials (QPMs). 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%.

For NICERs related to Livestock, Forestry and Environment R&D, the Native Chicken R&D Center from the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) is built. This NICER will accelerate the production of quality breeder stocks through enhanced breeding, feeding, and production management strategies suitable for native chickens.

The Central Mindanao University (CMU) focused on a Bamboo R&D Center. The center will 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.

Lastly, 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, a NICER on Cave Ecosystems Research is set in the University of the Philippines – Los Baños.

“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,” says 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.”