‘Don’t touch proposed budget for organic agri’ – group asks lawmakers

BUDGET activists are throwing their support behind the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by Malacanang through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the DA’s 2012 budget for organic agriculture which they said will help boost organic farming in the Philippines.

Roland Cabigas, managing director of the La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) and a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines said as far as the push for organic farming is concerned, the DA’s proposed budget for 2012 is laudable.

Under the NEP for 2012, the DA’s budget this year of P37.4 billion will increase to almost P50 billion, P927.2 million of which is for the promotion of organic agriculture in the Philippines.

The amount, Cabigas said, will greatly boost organic farming in the Philippines which promotes environment-friendly food production practices which the country needs to invest in to help cut its carbon footprint and help address the challenge of climate change.

Such budget, he said, should be used to provide various support services, training, research and development, marketing and packaging assistance, including subsidy to farmers who will shift to sustainable organic and ecological agriculture to boost the country’s organic industry.

Cabigas added that the increase in budget also means additional  resources  for  a comprehensive effort to educate and push a for shift  to organic lifestyle among urban consumers  which buys  the bulk of agricultural commodities that come from  the rural areas.

Resource mobilization and the efficient utilization of government resources for agricultural development is part of the overall campaign to achieve food and staple sufficiency within the term of Pres. Aquino.

“We appeal to our honorable members of Congress not to touch the proposed budget for the DA’s organic agriculture program and support organic farming by approving the new budget line item as proposed in the NEP for 2012,” Cabigas said.

Cabigas lauded the DA led by Sec. Proceso Alcala, an organic farming practitioner himself, for being faithful to his commitment to support the push to have a separate budget line item exclusively for organic agriculture as reflected in the NEP 2012.

La Liga, which acts as the convening organization of the Alternative Budget Initiative – Environment Cluster (ABI-Envi Cluster), believes that organic farming promotes sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture consistent with the AgriPinoy program of Pres. Aquino.

As part of its budget advocacy, La Liga which took part in the crafting of the implementing rules and regulation of Republic Act 10068 otherwise known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 pushed for the provision mandating the DA to allocate at least 2 percent of its annual budget exclusively for the implementation of organic agriculture programs.

The campaign for the shift to sustainable organic and ecological agriculture and its funding is consistent with La Liga’s call for a more climate sensitive 2012 budget which calls for increased public investment for environment-friendly way of doing agriculture.

A development policy research and advocacy nongovernment organization, La Liga is aggressively promoting organic farming in the Philippines.  In 2009, La Liga and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) led a network of citizens’ groups, academic institutions, local government units and the private sector under the banner Go Organic! Philippines in implementing the Organic FIELDS Support Program (OFSP).

The program popularized organic farming in six provinces in Luzon, wherein 600 farmers who completed a season’s long training, a major component of the program, are now practicing and teaching other farmers how to go organic.

Through its partner-LGUs under the One Pangasinan Alliance of LGUs (LGUs), La Liga was able to institutionalize local funding in support of organic farming, particularly in Western Pangasinan.

In Pangasinan, La Liga is implementing the Organikong Palayan – Pangasinan in partnership with the DA Regional Field Unit 1 and the local government units of Alaminos City, Bani, Burgos and Dasol.as part of the DA’s overall strategy of attaining food and staple sufficiency within the term of Pres. Aquino.

The program takes off from the various “organic” initiatives of the participating LGUs with the hope of encouraging more farmers to shift to sustainable organic and ecological agricultural model and veer away from the conventional agricultural model that is highly dependent on often harmful petroleum-based chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Under Organikong Palayan – Pangasinan, a total of 280 farmers will also undergo season-long training on organic farming of rice in eight learning farms, two learning farms for each of the project areas, to be put up for the purpose.

Cabigas stressed that Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, Republic Act 10068 recognizes the urgency of shifting to a sustainable organic and ecological agriculture model to increase rice production and productivity in the long run, boost farmers’ income, promote better health for farmers and consumers and increase soil fertility by arresting the degradation of the environment.

Pangasinan mayors vow funding support for organic agriculture program

FOUR local chief executives in Pangasinan vowed to institutionalize funding in support of the shift to sustainable organic and ecological food production model in the province.

Alaminos Mayor City Hernani A. Braganza, Bani Mayor Marcelo Navarro Burgos Mayor Alberto Guiang and Dasol Mayor Noel Nacar vowed to ask local legislators in their respective city and municipalities to integrate funds for organic farming in the annual investment plan for 2012 .

Alaminos, Bani, Burgos and Dasol are project partners in the Organikong Palayan – Pangasinan of the Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Unit 1 being implemented by the La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga).

Roland Cabigas, managing director of La Liga lauded the four local chief executives in taking the lead in promoting sustainable organic and ecological agriculture in their respective localities, noting that the failed promises of the prevailing agricultural model that is heavily dependent on agro-chemicals necessitates such commitment and support.

 “Crucial to all these initiatives to promote organic farming is the need to integrate funding support in the annual investment plans of individual LGUs,” he said.

Organikong Palayan – Pangasinan is consistent with the food staple sufficiency goals of the DA and Pres. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino’s Agri-Pinoy program, Cabigas said.

In Alaminos City, Braganza, said organic farming has always been a part of the city’s investment priorities.  He said organic farming offers a solution to the woes of resource-poor farmers whose income is limited by the skyrocketing cost of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides.

“Slowly, more and more farmers are realizing the need to shift to a more environmentally-sound food production practice and model,” he added.

Sustainable organic and ecological agriculture is consistent with the city’s 10-point agenda to boost the city’s tourism industry, which is anchored on protecting the environment and natural resources.  Alaminos is home to the Hundred Island National Park (HINP).

The same way, Navarro said going organic supports his vision of making Bani a model “Green City” by 2020.

For his part, Guiang said farmers in Burgos will greatly benefit through the season-long training component of the project, wherein organic fertilizer production forms an important part of.

“Learning how to produce their own organic fertilizer will help farmers become less dependent and more self-reliant,” he stressed.

Nacar, who is now president of the League of Mayors in Pangasinan pointed out that Dasol, whose salt industry is largely dependent on its pristine waters, requires the limited application of chemical fertilizers so as to prevent pollution, apart from making food staple production economically viable.

He urged Pangasinan’s local chief executives to initiate similar programs as a way of offering farmers alternative ways of doing business in agriculture that is safer to both food producers and consumers, and friendly to the environment.

The four Pangasinan mayors recently signed a memorandum of agreement with La Liga’s managing director expressing their commitment and support to the project.  La Liga, for its part, will also provide counterpart fund for the implementation of the project.

It will be recalled that DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and DA Region 1 Regional Executive Director Renato A. Maguigad last week led the launching of Organikong Palayan – Pangasinan” as part of the strategy of attaining food and staple sufficiency within the term of Pres. Aquino.

The program takes off from the various “organic” initiatives of the participating LGUs with the hope of encouraging more farmers to go organic.

A total of 280 farmers will also undergo season-long training on organic farming of rice in eight learning farms, two learning farms for each of the project areas, to be put up for the purpose.

La Liga, which is aggressively promoting organic farming in the Philippines, said Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, Republic Act 10068 recognizes the urgency of shifting to a sustainable organic and ecological agriculture model, to increase rice production and productivity, boost farmers’ income, promote better health for farmers and consumers and increase soil fertility by arresting the degradation of the environment.

DA-LGUs-La Liga launch ‘Organikong Palayan’ in Pangasinan

The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Friday formally set in motion a one-year program to promote the shift from conventional to organic rice production models in four pilot areas in the province of Pangasinan.

DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and DA Region 1 OIC Regional Executive Director Renato A. Maguigad led the launching of the program dubbed “Organikong Palayan – Pangasinan” during simple rites in Alaminos City.

The project will be implemented by the La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) in partnership with the local government units of Alaminos City and the municipalities of Burgos, Bani and Dasol.

Local chief executives of the four LGUs namely Mayor Hernani A. Braganza, Mayor Marcelo Navarro (Bani), Mayor Alberto Guiang (Burgos) and Mayor Noel Nacar  (Dasol) have committed to promoting sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture in their respective localities as a strategy in pursuing local economic development.

A member of Go Organic! Philippines, La Liga aggressively promotes organic farming in the Philippines.  La liga managing director Roland Cabigas said  the program is part of the DA’s strategy of attaining food and staple sufficiency within the term of Pres. Aquino.

Cabigas said the rice subsector alone employs around four million farmers and farm workers.  Land planted to rice covers approximately 40 per cent of the total land cultivated, or approximately 4 million hectares of the 10 million hectares of land devoted to food production.  However, despite its (rice) significance, the Philippines is a rice-importing country.

 “Clearly, a concerted effort to increase rice productivity is imperative. This is the challenge faced by sustainable agriculture,” Cabigas stressed.

He said different studies on agricultural productivity specifically on rice production cited numerous reasons from a plagued policy environment to dwindling public investments in agriculture as the reason for the poor performance of the rice sub sector.

“This exposes the fact that the gains and promises of rice productivity of the prevailing production model have been short lived. A shift in production methods and systems is crucial to achieving the country’s rice self-sufficiency and food security goals,” he said.

The DA secretary, during the launch, ordered the RFU 1 to ensure the timely release of the progam’s fund for various activities which aims to enhance the capacities, provide production support, and to institutionalize programs and budget for the promotion of sustainable agriculture among participating LGUs, in line with the Agri-Pinoy Program of the DA.

Braganza, a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines, said the program takes off from the various “organic” initiatives of the participating LGUs with the hope of encouraging more farmers to go organic.

Also the secretary general of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), Braganza hopes that the benefits of such program on organic farming will radiate in other cities and municipalities in Pangasinan and the Ilocos Region.

La Liga expects the project to be replicated in other towns of Pangasinan and the Ilocos Region, in view of the province`s role as one of the leading agricultural commodity producers in the country.

The DA Secretary was in Alaminos City as guest of honor of the event dubbed “Farmer – Fisherfolk Assembly held at the Alaminos Sports Center, wherein the country’s food czar presided  the rolling out of  DA projects for the province of Pangasinan, one of which is the Organikong Palayan.

The DA is promoting responsible consumption and production to achieve food self-sufficiency.  Aside from the production of brown rice, it is also promoting the cultivation of white corn, sweet potato or commonly called camote, and cassava, or more popularly called balinghoy in the Visayas or kamoteng kahoy in Luzon.

 “Organikong Palayan – Pangasinan” seeks to promote organic farming as mandated by Republic Act 10068 – in this case, rice in the four pilot areas.  Through the project, proponents aim to encourage the shift to sustainable agriculture practices among farmers, mobilize support from local governments in terms of policies, programs, and promote sustainable agriculture as a key strategy for local economic development.

Through the project, farmers will be mobilized through barangay assemblies, targeting a total of 1,400 farmers, to rally support behind the DA’s sustainable, ecological agriculture initiative.

A total of 280 farmers will also undergo season-long training on organic farming of rice in eight learning farms, two learning farms for each of the project areas, to be put up for the purpose.

Alaminos, Bani, Burgos and Dasol are located in Western Pangasinan and are members of the One Pangasinan Alliance of LGUs, an economic alliance that promotes resource sharing for local economic development.

Otherwise known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, Republic Act 10068 recognizes the urgency of shifting to an organic agriculture model to veer away from the excessive use of agrochemical inputs used in conventional farming systems.

Food self-sufficiency, nutrition security through sustainable organic agriculture pushed

ORGANIC farming advocates are pitching calls for food self-sufficiency and nutrition security through sustainable organic and ecological agriculture and back the decision of the Department of Agriculture to cut down rice importation to protect local rice farmers.

Roland Cabigas, managing director of the La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) and a convener of Go Organic! Philippines said limiting the volume of imported rice and pushing for rice self-sufficiency is the way to go.

He issued the statement following DA Secretary Proceso Alcala’s optimistic projection that the DA may be further reducing the country’s rice import quota, and start exporting “brown rice” to other countries because of the projected increase in rice production this year owing to the favorable weather condition and various intervention of the government.

La Liga also supports the strategy to promote the production of brown rice, or unpolished rice, which reduces postharvest losses in palay to help increase rice production

However, Cabigas said more importantly, there is a need to boost rice production by encouraging more farmers to cultivate rice through the shift to sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture, veering away from the excessive use of expensive, and often harmful chemical fertilizers that prevents resource-poor farmers to do business in agriculture.

 “At a time when the country is still struggling to become rice self-sufficient, we need to protect farmers to make them more competitive,” Cabigas said.

La Liga nixes calls by some quarters to lift the quantitative restriction on rice which will allow the importation of rice by the private sector without limits.

With the quantitative restriction on rice in place, the importation of rice into the country is subject to a 40-percent tariff and duty-free importation is limited to a concessionary amount of only 360,000 metric tons a year.

The current extension of the quantitative restriction on rice is set to expire next year.

It was extended by seven years in 2005, after the expiration of a 10-year rice quota under Annex 5 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement.

“As it is already, trade liberalization is killing the agriculture sector and taking away this level of protection will further weaken Philippine agriculture, particularly the rice subsector,” Cabigas said.

Cabigas added that once quantitative restriction on rice has been removed, there is no guarantee that regional and multilateral negotiations through the WTO to impose higher tariff on rice and other agricultural products, will favor developing countries like the Philippines, noting how “powerless” the ones with weaker economies appear to be in negotiating for fair trade against stronger economies.

La Liga said the Philippines should seek an extension of the country’s quantitative restriction on rice until 2015, while the government steps up programs to achieve rice self-sufficiency, and nutrition security, “rather than being food secured through massive rice imports.”

Cabigas said government intervention in agriculture and fishery is crucial to pump-priming the economy under globalization.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is confident that the Philippines will achieve its target of becoming rice self-sufficient by 2013, noting that the Philippines has in fact reduced rice importation by two-thirds already in 2011 compared to 2009, when the Philippines landed on top of the list of rice-importing countries.

A development policy research and advocacy nongovernment organization, La Liga is pushing for sustainable organic and ecological agriculture in the Philippines and the production of ‘healthier’ food through organic farming.  It is aggressively supporting the shift from chemical-intensive farming to the more environment-friendly and low-carbon food, production practices in organic or natural farming, as well as organic way of life among consumers.

 “What we need is more time to level the playing field starting with being rice self-sufficient, first and foremost,” he said.

Along with the campaign to go organic, which will allow resource-poor farmers to do business by producing their own organic fertilizer which they will use; the campaign to produce and consume brown rice and food diversification, an effective information, education and communication campaign to promote responsible production and consumption, will also help do the trick, Cabigas said.

Rather than anchoring its hope on imported rice and other food products, Cabigas said the government should pour its resources in support of small farm holders, the backbone of Philippine agriculture, for them to become more productive and competitive.

La Liga Policy Institute pitches call for ‘food self-sufficiency, nutrition security’

THE La Liga Policy Institute (Liga) is pitching calls to promote food self-sufficiency and nutrition security through sustainable organic and ecological agriculture and nixes import dependence as a way of ensuring the country’s “food security.”

A member of Go Organic! Philippines, La Liga rejects the idea of lifting the quantitative restriction on rice by some quarters, saying that prematurely doing so at a time when the Philippines is still struggling to become rice self-sufficient, will do more harm than good to the economy.

Roland Cabigas, its managing director, said La Liga supports the call to seek an extension of the country’s quantitative restriction on rice until 2015, while the government steps up programs to achieve rice self-sufficiency, and nutrition security, rather than being food secured through massive imports.

He said government intervention in agriculture and fishery is crucial for broad based growth with equity and will allow the country compete under globalization.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is confident that the Philippines will achieve its target of becoming rice self-sufficient by 2013, noting that it has in fact, reduced rice importation by two-thirds already in 2011 compared to 2009, when the Philippines landed on top of the list of rice-importing countries.

The quantitative restriction on rice prevents cheap, imported rice from flooding the local market.   The downside of lifting such import limit is the weakening of the agriculture sector and compromising the interest of our agricultural producers particularly the farmers, Cabigas stressed.

A development policy research and advocacy nongovernment organization, La Liga is pushing for sustainable organic and ecological agriculture in the Philippines and the production of ‘healthier’ food through organic farming.  It is aggressively supporting the shift from chemical-intensive farming to the more environment-friendly and low-carbon food production practices in organic or natural farming, as well as organic way of life among consumers.

With the quantitative restriction on rice in place, the importation of rice into the country is subject to a 40-percent tariff and duty-free importation is limited to a concessionary amount of only 360,000 metric tons a year.

The current extension of the quantitative restriction on rice is set to expire next year.

The restriction was extended by seven years in 2005, after the expiration of a 10-year rice quota under Annex 5 of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement.

“As it is already, trade liberalization is killing the agriculture sector and applying certain limit offers some level of protection to small farm holders,” Cabigas said.

Developing countries like the Philippines are unable to compete against highly developed countries that provide massive support to their agriculture sector even under liberalized trade, Cabigas said.

“What we need is more time to level the playing field starting with being rice self-sufficient, first and foremost,” he said.

According to Cabigas, the DA is on the right track in promoting sustainable organic and ecological agriculture, along with the campaign for the production and consumption of brown rice, and food diversification, which will help ease the pressure on rice.

He said an effective information, education and communication campaign to promote responsible consumption, such as eating less those often imported white rice or well-milled rice, and eating more the brown rice, white corn, and root crops such as sweet potato or commonly called camote and cassava, also known as kamoteng kahoy or balinghoy, will help do trick.

Rather than anchoring its hope on imported rice and other food products, Cabigas said the government should pour its resources in support of small farm holders, the backbone of Philippine agriculture, for them to become more productive and competitive.

Explore, lead the ‘shift’ to sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture, vets urged

La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) president Horacio “Boy” R. Morales Jr asked the country’s veterinarians to consider and explore the shift towards sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture to positively contribute to the over-all growth and development of the agriculture sector and the country.

Morales, a former agrarian reform secretary, said there are clear social and economic opportunities in undertaking the shift to a more environment-friendly food production practices where animal doctors, through the poultry and livestock subsector can factor in.

According to Morales, the flailing agriculture sector can in fact be revitalized with the Philippines carving a niche in the global organic food market noting that with the increasing demand for healthier food by a more health-conscious generation of today, the opportunity is limitless.

Speaking before the 39th Veterinary Practitioners Association of the Philippines Annual Scientific Conference held at the H2O Hotel at the Luneta Park in Manila, Morales said the passage of the Organic Agriculture Law is one of the most recent “exciting” developments in Philippine agriculture.  The event was participated in by 300 veterinary practitioners and experts from all over the country.

La Liga, a development policy research and advocacy nongovernment organization, is actively promoting sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture through organic rice farming.

In partnership with several NGOs, academe, local governments and farmer organizations, La Liga implemented a national program to promote an organic farming and lifestyle called Organic FIELDS Support Program (OFSP) under the banner of Go Organic! Philippines.

“There is now a demand for organically grown, organically raised, naturally farmed chicken, pork and fish and its by-products such as eggs,” he said.

Morales also expressed appreciation of the efforts of the current administration of the Department of Agriculture led by Sec. Proceso Alcala who has set in motion the Agrikuluturang Pinoy program.  Alcala, an organic farming practitioner himself, is supporting organic agriculture.

While saying that the organic food market in the Philippines is still small, it is nevertheless growing fast.

“Market size is now estimated at around US$ 30 million.  The export market, of course, shows a growing potential with market size estimated at over US$ 2billion mainly in the US, EU and Japan,” Morales said.

Together with other NGOs and agri-traders, La Liga has formed a partnership with the ETON commercial center in QC, part of the Lucio Tan group of companies, for a weekly organic night market known as the Organic Food Bowl Network, to promote local organic food and food products.

“For me, a clear policy and program shift towards sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture is a strategic move towards revitalizing our flailing agriculture industry and a broad strategy for growth and development in the sector,” he said.

According to Morales, at center of the failed agriculture programs is the failure of modern conventional agriculture under the so-called “Green Revolution”.

Sustainable, organic and ecological (SOE) agriculture, he said, can improve farm productivity, address poverty and generate more jobs and livelihood opportunities.

Apart from contributing to agricultural productivity, SOE agriculture also minimizes health risks of farmers that are repeatedly exposed to toxic and hazardous materials resulting from conventional chemical intensive farming practices, he said.

Lastly, Morales said making available agricultural products from sustainable, organic and ecological agricultural practices, also promote over-all food and nutrition security of the country, citing for instance a shift to unpolished rice can have an immediate impact on the rice stock, consequently, the boosting the achievement of the rice self-sufficiency targets of the country.

With SOE farming and production systems combined with traditional and indigenous farmers practice and knowledge, the coping and adaptive capacity of farms in building resilience to climate related impacts can be increased and the vulnerability and risks can be spread and minimized, Morales added.

To promote on a nationwide scale the shift to sustainable agriculture, the necessary package of public investments must be made available, policy tools implemented and appropriate incentives provided to farms, whether small or commercial, and to agriculture practitioners who will undertake the shift to SOE agriculture as well as incentive mechanisms for SOE product wholesalers, retailers, buyers and consumers.

 

PHL much to gain in enhancing ‘organic’ labeling, standards and certification – La Liga

THERE is much to be gained in enhancing the labeling, standards and certification of organic products and byproducts for sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture in the Philippines – the La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) said.

Matched with a labeling system with clear government check mechanism for the validity of labels, the promotion of organic products and byproducts will boost trading system that will benefit both the consumers and producers, Roland Cabigas, La Liga’s managing director stressed.

Cabigas, the lone Filipino delegate in the “Workshop on Development of Standard and Certification System for Organic Agricultural Products” jointly sponsored by the Asian Productivity Organization, an intergovernmental body based in Tokyo,Japan as well as the Ministry of Agriculture of India and the National Productivity Council of India from May 16 to 20 at the India International Center in New Delhi stressed that labels, standards and certification should be developed not just for full, pure or completely organic agriculture products, but also for products of farms still on their transition to becoming full organic.

“This means developing labels and standards for products that range from organic, semi-organic, organically grown, naturally farmed, pesticide free or less chemicals,” Cabigas, also  a convenor of Go Organic! Philippines.

The activity was participated by delegates, including key government officials and officers of private development organizations from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam, South Korea,Sri Lanka,Republic of China (Taiwan) ,Japan and Thailand.

Among the resource persons were Dr. A.K. Yadav from the Ministry of Agriculture of India, Mr .Gerald Hermann, past president of the International Federation of  Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM),Prof Shih Shiung Chen ,President Mingdao University based in Taiwan and Dr. Muhammad Saeed representing the Asian Productivity Organization (APO).

The Philippine country paper entitled “Enhancing Labeling, Standards and Certification for Sustainablle, Organic and Ecological Agriculture in the Philippines” was presented by Cabigas during the four day-event.

It provided fresh update on the status of organic agriculture in the country in terms of recent policy initiatives, the key players in the sector as well as trends in relation to organic agriculture certification.

The paper calls for appropriate support for farmers who have abandoned conventional farming but has yet to embrace full organic agriculture, which include farmers who are now practicing balance fertilization and low external input farming.  The paper bats for appropriate labelling of products that are produced thru organic and inorganic farming systems to provide the consumers appropriate food information and proper guidance.  Likewise, the paper calls for the equal application of non third party certification processes such as the participatory guarantee system (PGS) since this is more economical and more attuned to the interest of small farmers.

Finally, it recommended the crafting of a National Organic Agriculture Plan to guide the government in the proper utilization of the $21 million dollar (P900 million ) DA  annual budget for organic agriculture.

Broadening the labeling, standards and certification policy to cover the bigger section of SOE agriculture practices can potentially contribute a higher value-added in terms of the over-all growth and development goal of the country’s agriculture sector – the shift towards more sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture,Cabigas said.

Cabigas said, while there is no denying of the substantial steps undertaken by Philippine government agencies in partnership with non-government and people’s organization networks in formulating an organic agriculture standard and certification process that is compliant with international standards, there is a need to review the Philippine standards on the certification and labeling of organic products and byproducts.

The PNS was developed in 2005 and it has not been updated to include more recent consensus in Asian and international standards, at the time it was crafted and finally adopted as official policy of the Philippine government.

As it is currently framed, there is, however, a very serious limitation to the Philippine organic agriculture labeling, standards and certification policies, Cabigas said.

For one, there is little mention of non-third party certification including 1st and 2nd party certification and participatory guarantee systems.  While no systematic baseline exists, many estimate a bigger number of full, pure and complete organic farms that follow internal control systems but can not afford 3rd party certification and/or those who are not targeting the export market, he said.

According to Cabigas, there is a need to improve the current policy language on organic agriculture labeling, standards and certification to put equal emphasis on non-third party certification.

“Documentation of labeling and non-third party certification practices is very much needed in order to develop more comprehensive options for organic agriculture certification.  This will necessitate a review of the current Philippine Organic Agriculture Act as well as its implementing rules and regulations.  In particular, key provisions of the IRR on the transition period for 1st and 2nd party certification must be seriously reconsidered,” he said.

More critically, he said labeling, standards and certification policies only cover and are applicable to full, pure and/or completely organic agricultural products.  As such, in the case of the Philippines, it only covers less than 1 percent of SOE agriculture production.

During a brief speech, Cabigas lauded the initiative of the government of India in providing appropriate and adequate policy support and public resources for the up-scaling of organic agriculture in the country.

Organic products, both food and non-food, is now a billion dollar industry in the India, a feat that is made more remarkable by the fact that 70 percent of India`s farmlands are considered to be rain fed.

Conference participants worked out an action plan calling for greater regional cooperation among Asian governments and non government organizations, increase public and private resources for organic agriculture and innovative promotional strategies aimed at increasing broad based awareness and support for the sector.

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