Jan 1, 1970
The long journey toward the transformation of the MMSU College of Aquatic Sciences and Applied Technology (CASAT) into an eco-fishery tourism hub in Ilocos Norte was started last July 25.
This was done through the launching of a Plant-A-Palm project at the five-hectare vicinity of CASAT, led by MMSU President Shirley C. Agrupis. The launching coincided with the celebration of Dr. Agrupis’ 54th birthday.
The activity was attended by a group of MMSU students, officials and employees; officials of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in Batac City; and local government units, among other stakeholders in Ilocos Norte.
More than 300 seedlings of nipa and high yielding varieties of coconut were planted in the area, including 20 varieties of coconut donated by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in Zamboanga City.
Dr. Agrupis said the eco-fishery tourism hub that is being developed at CASAT includes the aggressive development of tourist attractions such as the palm plantation, and the conversion of fishponds as recreational facilities for those who want to experience inland fishing adventure.
In addition, the CASAT campus is host to the newly-built alumni villa, and will also feature a state-of-the art student center. The villa was initiated by the university's alumni association, headed by Alumni Regent Bismark Quidang.
To complement these developments, Dr. Agrupis envisions a restaurant for picnickers and tourists to experience the ambience of a healthy beach resort in the Ilocos. As an eco-tourism destination, a no-plastic policy will be imposed, and utensils will be made of either coconut or bamboo.
Dr. Agrupis said that palm plants, especially nipa, resemble the resiliency of the Ilocanos when challenges come along their way.
“Aside from being a key in building an eco-fishery tourism hub, palm plants have also reaped many laurels for MMSU,” Dr. Agrupis said. She emphasized that the university’s research and development activities on nipa as feedstock for bioethanol production paved the way for the establishment of the National Bionergy Research and Innovation Center (NBERIC) at MMSU.
The NBERIC, which was given a startup funding of Php 150M through the initiatives of Senators Loren Legarda and Win Gatchalian upon the recommendation of Congressman Lord Allan Velasco, is one of MMSU’s flagship R&D program under Dr. Agrupis’s administration. With the operationalization of NBERIC, MMSU has partnered with LGUs and state universities nationwide for the production and processing of bioethanol using nipa.
“In response to the challenge of Senator Gatchalian, our aim is to come up with a 5,000-hectare nipa plantation in Regions 1 and 2,” Dr. Agrupis said.
Meanwhile, CASAT Dean Andres Tungpalan said that palm trees are perfect species for the eco-fishery tourism site because of their fibrous root system that ramifies aside from other beneficial agronomic characteristics.
For instance, the stem of a mature nipa has as much as 18,000 vascular bundles which help the plant withstand vascular damage, making it as the most resilient plant species on earth. As a monocot plant, its leaves perform faster photosynthesis and its fruits contain both glucose and sucrose which produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that releases energy for cellular reactions.
Nipa palm is also referred to as the tree of life because every part can be made into usable items like food, timber, coir, oil, sap, charcoal, shingles, and broomstick, among others.
“This plant is comparable with the partnerships that the MMSU president tries to forge with other development partners in the country. Its resiliency resembles her attitude and her quest to achieve her strategic goals,” Prof. Tungpalan said.
Furthermore, the PCA in Zamboanga City pledged support to the Plant-A-Palm project by providing coconut seedlings for the university to put up its own coconut nursery.