BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi — The Seaweed Research and Development Center at Mindanao State University Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography is producing a new strain of seaweeds resistant to disease and climate change.
Dr. Sitti Zayda Halun, Director for Research, said seaweed farmers in the southern Philippines province have been planting the same strain for more than 50 years and are already susceptible to ice-ice disease.
Ice-ice is a condition that causes the whitening and hardening of the seaweed's tissues caused by changes in salinity, ocean temperature, and light intensity, resulting in low productivity.
“Bumaba 'yung quality ng raw dice seaweeds natin. 'Yung production natin, bumaba din dahil hindi maganda ang mga seedlings na ginagamit,” Halun said.
(The quality of our raw dice seaweeds decreased, as well as their production because the seedlings used were not good.)
Tawi-Tawi used to be the top producer of raw diced seaweed in Southeast Asia.
Carrageenan, which is an extract from raw diced seaweeds, serves as the main ingredient for cosmetics, medicine, and food.
“Naunahan na tayo ng mga ibang bansa, tulad ng Malaysia, and Indonesia,” Halun said.
(We're being outpaced by other countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.)
The new strain that they are producing through tissue culture and spores is unaffected by the ice-ice disease. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) funded the program.
It is currently being distributed to farmers for mass production.
But there’s more to be done, Halun said.
Aside from the research aspect, the program needs facilities to improve the production and income of seaweed farmers such as processing plants and storage facilities.
“The goal is to be able to process seaweeds chips that can be sold as raw materials,” Halun said.
Having industry-based shared facilities forms part of the Mindanao Development Agenda of the Mindanao Development Authority to ensure the productivity and resilience of the agriculture and fisheries sectors.
MinDA chairperson Maria Belen Acosta said stakeholders should work hand in hand to reposition Tawi-Tawi as a major source of seaweed products.
Tawi-Tawi province is composed of 11 island municipalities, with fishing and seaweed farming as the main source of livelihood.
- Francis Magbanua