Thursday, April 7, 2016

Senator Villar supports rice information system project in the Philippines

Senator Cynthia Villar browses through PRISM website.
MANILA, Philippines—“The benefits and advantages that the Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) project had provided us so far cannot be discounted,” said Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food. “Thus, its continuation by the Department of Agriculture (DA) is utmost welcome.

“Science and technology and agriculture should go together to improve this country,” Villar added. “I’m introducing a bill requiring the local government units to allocate a certain percentage of their development funds to agriculture so that they can have the facilities to access PRISM.”

DA Secretary Proceso Alcala echoed Villar’s sentiments. “The project has already delivered remarkable outputs and showed great potential,” said Allan Umali, DA assistant secretary for administration, on behalf of Alcala during the PRISM Project’s first Annual Executive Meeting on 31 March.  The event also marked the soft launch of the PRISM website (, which will be available to project partners and policy-makers.

PRISM is an on-going project led by the DA, Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and sarmap. It aims to support decision-making toward improved rice production through an operational rice information system. It uses state-of-the-art technologies to provide accurate, detailed, timely, and location-specific information on rice.

“The Philippines is the first in Southeast Asia to set up such an information system,” said Umali.

Since 2014, PRISM has provided the DA with detailed data on rice area and yield every season at 85% accuracy, assessments of areas with standing rice crop, estimates of damages from typhoons, and standardized protocol and training of partners for assessing injuries caused by pests.

“The unique part of PRISM is that it combines information from the satellite and the ground to get information on the rice area, seasonality, yield, flood- and drought-affected areas, rice crop production situation, and incidence of pest injuries,” said Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships. “This combined information improves our capacity to manage events as they take place and to mitigate the impact over time. That is something you cannot see anywhere else.”

Dr. Calixto Protacio, PhilRice executive director, added that the rice maps produced by PRISM can show planting synchrony, which affects the occurrence of pests and diseases, within a region.

Senator Villar (3rd from right) makes a point during a press
conference following PRISM's Annual Executive Meeting.
Alcala also highly recommended the institutionalizationof PRISM within the DA, with PhilRice as its host institution. At present, PhilRice, IRRI, and DA Regional Field Offices (DA-RFOs) handle all PRISM operations.

“The rice information system will be owned, operated, and sustained by the DA starting 2018,” said Dr. Alice Laborte, PRISM project leader at IRRI. “This will complement existing systems in the DA that guide strategy and interventions for food security at national and regional levels.

“At the moment, infrastructures, including resources and personnel, have been mobilized and PhilRice will be able to set up the PRISM unit. This will be the center for all PRISM operations, processes, and maintenance,” said Laborte.

Officials from the DA, DA RFOs, PhilRice, IRRI, the Bureau of Agricultural Research, Philippine Statistics Authority-Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, and the Bureau of Plant Industry attended the meeting to discuss the project’s accomplishments, outputs, and plans for its sustainability.

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