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The research question

Senator Cynthia Villar qualified the statement she made last week during the budget hearing for the Department of Agriculture.

“Parang lahat ng inyong budget puro research. Baliw na baliw kayo sa research. Aanhin niyo ba yung research? (It appears all of your budget goes to research. You are crazy about research. What will you do with research?).” Villar told agriculture officials on Oct. 9, referring to the proposed P150-million allocation for research under the the National Corn Program.

She said she herself, a smart person, could not understand the DA’s research—the farmer, less likely so. “Gusto ba ng farmer yung research? Hindi ba gusto nila tulungan nyo sila (Does the farmer want your research? Don’t they want your help instead?”)

The research question

If she were a farmer, she said, she would prefer to receive help in the form of seeds or machinery over “kung ano-ano (whatnot).”

This week, however, after receiving flak for her statements during the hearing, Villar claimed she was not anti-research. “I want a research that could be applied,” she said.

To show her frustration, she said dairy production has remained at just 1 percent of demand despite research being conducted for the past 26 years.

It is easy to understand how Villar could have been, as she insists, misunderstood. She spoke with such contempt of research, making out to be the polar opposite of practical help to farmers—which the DA has been doing anyway. The oversimplification is hardly typical of any “smart” person. Whoever thinks of conducting research for research’s sake?

Certainly not, for instance, Ricardo Lantican, named National Scientist in 2005, for developing more than 20 varieties of mungbean, soybean and peanut. With his team, he also studied the Southern maize leaf blight—a fungal disease—which affected crops in the cornfield of UP Los Banos.

Science website FlipScience says that Lantican’s research initially did not gain much attention or acceptance. After a decade, however, the same fungal disease affected US corn, and if the US only paid attention to the study, it could have saved billions of dollars it had spent to arrest the disease.

The Philippines’ agricultural challenges require greater study and innovation. Our leaders should be the last people to discourage and discount research. On the contrary, they must be the first to recognize its potential and lend it their support.

Topics: Editorial , The research question , Senator Cynthia Villar , Department of Agriculture , National Corn Program
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