by Alito L. Malinao
MANILA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- In his remarks on Friday in an anti- corruption session in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III cited two positive developments in the Philippines where China has played a major role.
According to Mr. Aquino, these are on the country's booming tourism industry and on rice production where the Philippines could start exporting rice this year.
As Aquino exuberantly narrated the remarkable gains in the country's tourism industry, he cited the favorable assessment of the Philippines by two of China's leading English newspapers.
Aquino said that the Oriental Morning Post has named the Philippines as "The Best Tourist Destination" in the paper's annual World Travel-Special Trips Awards while the Shanghai Morning Post has described the country as "The Most Romantic Destination in the World" based on a consumer survey.
Earlier, on Jan. 15 at the Shanghai Peninsula Hotel by the Bund, Philippine Consul General to Shanghai Charles Jose received the award from Liu Sha, editor in chief of the Shanghai Morning Post.
Aquino also mentioned the favorable tourism reviews of international leisure publications such as Conde Nast Traveller, The New York Times, and Travel + Leisure magazine.
According to Aquino, these awards were "surely inspired by the magnificent sunsets over our numerous white sand beaches, or the pristine, secluded coves dotting our many islands."
Aquino said that in 2012, 4.3 million tourists visited the Philippines although he admitted that this was short of the 4.6 million target of the Department of Tourism, blaming what he termed as "some political tension" in the region, referring to the territorial dispute in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China.
Despite this development, millions of Chinese are expected to visit the Philippines, especially during the winter season in China and for the upcoming week-long Chinese New Year holiday in February.
On rice production, Aquino told the forum that the Philippines, the world's largest rice importer, would be able to attain full self-sufficiency and even become a rice exporter before the year end barring typhoons and other natural calamities.
"From importing almost two-and-a-half million metric tons of rice in 2010, now, if the weather permits, we are looking at full rice self-sufficiency - and even the possibility of exporting it - by the end of this year," Aquino said during the forum.
Aquino said his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, had allowed the debt of the National Food Authority, the country's rice trading agency, to balloon to 4.4 billion U.S. dollars from 300 million U.S. dollars during the former president' s nine-year term, insisting on importing more rice than was needed to feed the people.
Since he assumed office in 2010, Aquino said, more funds were plowed into irrigation, arterial roads, research into higher- yielding varieties, and other technologies, making this goal of food self-sufficiency viable.
What Aquino did not elaborate was the launching in January 1998 of the government's national hybrid rice program that utilized hybrid rice technology, mainly adopted from China, as a new approach to increase rice production and to make Philippine farmers more competitive.
According to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice), support form China was in the form of collaborative undertakings with noted Chinese hybrid rice institutions such as the Yunnan Agricultural University since 1993, with the Jiangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences since 1995, the Guangxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences since 1997 and with Fujian Agricultural University since 1998.
In 1999, the Philippine Department of Agriculture forged a technical cooperation agreement on hybrid rice with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture which has been implemented by Philrice.
As demonstrated in China, and recently in India and Vietnam, rice hybrids can be used to increase rice production with such collateral positive benefits as generating rural employment, land savings and women's empowerment.
Experts have predicted that demand for hybrid rice technology in the Philippines will increase as a result of the country's high labor-to-land ratio and the high proportion of irrigated rice land.
Statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that China grows hybrid rice in 17 million hectares out of its total 33 million hectares planted to rice. India grows hybrid rice in 150,000 hectares while Vietnam cultivates 400,000 hectares to hybrid rice.
Hybrid rice technology helped China increase its rice production form 140 million tons in 1978 to 188 million tons in 1990. It accounts for 66 percent of China's total production and 20 percent of the world's total rice supply. At least 17 other countries have initiated hybrid rice programs.
Aside from China, the hybrid rice program in the Philippines is also being supported by the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute, FAO, Asian Development Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, Inc. and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.