MANILA – American business magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna on Wednesday, sources said.
Gates is the co-chairperson of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife. They are the single biggest private donor to IRRI, giving an estimated $18 million annually.
IRRI's annual budget for its global operation is around $100 million.
Security was tight at the IRRI's global headquarters inside the UP Los Baños campus, and officials would not confirm whether Gates was their guest.
However, they said the Foundation's head for Agriculture Development, Pamela Anderson, was in IRRI.
IRRI describes itself as "the world's premier research organization dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger through rice science." It was established in 1960 and has offices in 17 countries.
Deputy Director General Bruce Tolentino said IRRI is focused on food security and developing high quality rice. Their research aims to produce "climate smart" varieties that can thrive under various conditions, including flood, drought, and salination.
"Half of the world eats rice, at tayong mga Pinoy mahilig din sa kanin. We should be proud that the global center of IRRI is in the Philippines," said Tolentino.
Gates is known to support various development projects and charities, focusing on food and health.
Gates visits Amanpulo
Meanwhile, airport sources said the 59-year-old billionaire arrived in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on April 4 onboard a US-registered chartered flight with registry number N887WM.
Gates and his group disembarked in Puerto Princesa and immediately boarded an islander aircraft of Inland Transvoyager Inc. (ITI), a fixed base operator that has exclusive access to Amanpulo, a high-end private resort in Palawan.
The US-registered aircraft then filed another flight plan with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for a flight from Puerto Princesa to Manila with flight crew only. Gates’ chartered flight is now parked at the Asian Aerospace hangar.
Gates and his group took the ITI islander plane from Amanpulo to Manila, and landed at the Soriano hangar near the domestic airport.
Immigration sources confirmed the billionaire’s arrival, but Gates’ group requested for full confidentiality due to security reasons.
The flight plan filed before CAAP indicates that the chartered flight is tentative to depart Manila on April 16.
Immigration officials at Palawan, where Gates’ point of entry to the Philippines is, said they were not given advance information until the plane landed in Puerto Princesa on April 4.
Immigration sources confirmed that Gates is still in Manila, but they refused to give further details due to security reasons.