Bicol has always been popular for its pili nut products as confectioneries—whether caramelized, glazed, roasted, salted, or processed into pili roll, mazapan, and tarts. But has anyone heard of sardines in pili pulp oil, pili-flavored yoghurt, pili pulp all-purpose sauce, and pili pulp flour? What about pili pulp as feed for swine, plant-based milk from pili and pili oil-based lipstick and other beauty products?

To explore opportunities for engagement and dialogue on novel pili products and technologies, Bicol University (BU), the Philippine Rural Development Project’s (PRDP) partner state university in implementing its research project “Pili Research-Based Technology Assessment and Geo-mapping” gathered together pili industry actors, key players, and champions in a Pili Virtual Investment Forum on March 19, 2021 via a video conferencing application and broadcasted via Facebook Live.

Under the project’s Asset Inventory and Technology Assessment Component, the project team, headed by BU President Dr. Arnulfo M. Mascariñas, gathered research outputs on pili nuts from state universities and colleges and government agencies in Bicol from 1996 to 2017. The research outputs and technologies underwent technology assessment through a series of focus group discussion (FGD) involving researchers and experts from different agencies. The transferability of the research-based technologies were assessed based on their relevance, ease of adoption, compatibility, and replicability.

The team collected 17 research-based technologies classified into product development, varietal characterization, propagation, pest and disease control, fertilization, and mechanization, 11 of which were presented during the Pili Virtual Investment Forum. Among them were “Quality and Acceptability of Jar-Fermented Pili Yoghurt at Different Proportion of Soya Milk, Cow’s Milk and Carabao’s Milk” by Ma. Monette Dela Rosa Tugay of Catanduanes State University (CSU), “Pili Pulp as Feed for Swine, Broiler and Native Chickens” by Teresita Bucad-Pequeña of BU College of Agriculture and Forestry, and “Growth Performance of Growing Pigs Fed With Varying Levels of Pili Pulp Meal Ration,” by Dr. Elsa C. Maranan, Supervising Science Research Specialist at the Albay Breeding Station of the Albay Research and Development Center.

Other research-based technologies presented include “Physicochemical Characterization and Fatty Acid Profiling of Different Philippine Pili Nut (Canarium Ovatum) Varieties“ by Christopher G. Millena, Head of the Department of Science and Technology Regional Office V Regional Standards and Testing Laboratory, “Commercialization and Standardization of Pili Pulp Flour and By-products,” by Elena G. Tasarra and her co-researchers in CSU, “Standardization of Pili Pulp-Based Products” by Maria Asuncion V. Oronan and Maria Gisella N. Mortega of BU Tabaco Campus, “Development and Quality Evaluation of Moist Cake Utilizing Pili Pulp and Nuts (Canarium Ovatum)” by Jezzabie G. Gamis and Geraldine F. De Jesus of Sorsogon State College, and “Trial Planting of Selected Varieties or Strain of Pili” by Nympha B. Autos, Senior Science Research Specialist at the DA Albay Research and Development Center.

According to PRDP National Project Coordination Office (NPCO) Deputy Project Director Shandy M. Hubilla, the investment forum was a great milestone for the pili industry. He expressed his hope that it would trigger the interest of the private sector players, help disseminate transferrable technologies to other government agencies and promote increased investments for pili, and provide insights to students about the massive opportunities for pili.

“Indeed there is an opportunity that we have and can be developed in terms of its income and productivity potential for pili. With this engagement with the Bicol University as a partner in rural development, I believe that we will be able to capitalize on this activity to really start a meaningful and a broader conversation dialogue towards rural development especially in the Bicol region,” Hubilla said

Meanwhile, DA-Bicol Regional Executive Director and concurrently PRDP-Bicol Project Director Rodel P. Tornilla mentions that the activity is a significant progress as the Philippines through the DA seeks to regain market access for pili nuts in Europe.

“With these research-based transferrable technologies on product development, varietal characterization and propagation, we are confident that we are on the right track towards attaining our goal of upgrading the value chain of pili to boost the pili industry in the region. I am confident that this investment forum would open opportunities to encourage our pili farmers to innovate and diversify the pili’s value-adding and market potential towards attaining the DA’s twin objectives of “Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita,” he added.

According to Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez, Chief of the DA-Bicol Field Operations Division and High Value Crops Development Regional Coordinator, Bicol remains as the sole commercial producer of pili in the country. As of 2017, Bicol has 142, 405 hectares of pili area and 13,435 farmers engaged in pili production. The region shares about 6,224.26 metric tons or 89 percent of the country’s pili production. Currently, there are 164 local pili processors with about 2,233 kilograms volume requirement per day.

“This investment forum is very timely and at the same time, this is what our industry needs. The government sector alone cannot pave the way in the success of every industry. We realize that in every endeavour, we need the so-called private-public partnership,” she said. She noted that the activity will also encourage the pili farmers to boost the pili production and follow quality standards to have better market linkages. “This investment forum is very, very useful in terms of matching what the market needs and at the same time what our producers should produce,” she added.

The P2 million-worth “Pili Research-Based Technology Assessment and Geo-mapping” research and development (R&D) project was funded by the PRDP Project Support Office (PSO) South Luzon Cluster under its Local and National Level Planning Component (I-PLAN) 1.2 component, which supports the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan (AFMP) implementation through design of coordinated systems of technical support for the execution of subprojects prioritized in the Provincial Commodity Investment Plans (PCIPs), prepared by the PRDP-Bicol. Among the pili industry actors, stakeholders, and champions who participated in the activity were Albay 1st District Representative Edcel C. Lagman, who sponsored a bill for the establishment of the Pili Research and Training Center under the DA Albay Research and Development Center in Tabaco City, Philippine Pili Industry League Inc. President Joeriz P. Olbes, BU Business Affairs Office Director and Assistant Project Leader Dr. Viola L. Amano, Component Leader Julieta V. Mojados, PRDP-Bicol Planning Officer Gladys R. Guzman, and PRDP-Bicol Project Development Associate Ermar B. De la Cruz. Capping off the activity were Nature Wonders Enterprises Owner Rosalina S. Tan and Leslie Pili Products Owner Melinda A. Yee who shared their success stories followed by an open forum. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V/PRDP RPCO V InfoACE Unit)