By Genalyn Kabiling
DA NANG, Vietnam — The Philippines will soon deploy a team from International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to Papua New Guinea to train their farmers on stable and sustainable rice production.
President Duterte has offered to help Papua New Guinea to develop its rice sector after asking Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to keep the “status quo” on tuna imports to the Philippines.
Rice and tuna trade relations were among the topics discussed by the two leaders on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.
“We were talking of trade relations. It’s a huge land Papua New Guinea and they need to work up on their lands. They’re importing rice. But it’s a big country and I think the soil is compatible with rice and they are asking our expertise,” Duterte told Manila-based reporters in an interview on Thursday night here.
“We have been a rice-producing country for so long and we have the IRRI, the IRRI who can help them. And I’m sending a promise to send a team from the Department of Agriculture to help them out,” he added.
The IRRI is considered the world’s premier research organization on rice science, developing advanced rice varieties that yield more grain and withstand pests, diseases and other climate change effects.
The President also raised the country’s concern about its tuna imports from Papua New Guinea during his meeting with O’Neill.
Papua New Guinea, home to around 18 percent of the world’s tuna stock, reportedly wants to require 100 percent of tuna caught within its waters to be processed locally. This was part of its government plans to become a major downstream player in the global tuna market.
Duterte said he asked Papua New Guinea to continue to allow the country to import tuna despite its plans to focus on developing the processing side of its fisheries industry.
“We were also talking about the import of tuna, which is plentiful in that area but it appears because of the many countries dipping their fingers there in fishing, including Australia. They have reached a point of just allocating everybody a share,” he said.
“But I asked the Prime Minister if he could consider maintaining the status quo and the number of tons that we are importing in the Philippines which is mainly dropped at General Santos City, I think,” he added.
At present, around 40 percent of the Philippines’ tuna catch comes from Papua New Guinea.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Papua New Guinea promised it will be “very fair” in the tuna trade, adding it was only requiring its canning facility to process the tuna sourced from its seas.
“Hindi naman nila pinagbabawal na yung sobra mapadala sa Pilipinas, sa iba pang parts ng daigdig (They are not disallowing the tuna trade to the Philippines, other parts of the world),” he said.