30 September 2015

APEC News Releases

Government support results in ‘radical progression’ for agriculture sector, says official
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The Philippines’ agricultural sector has seen “radical progression” since 2010 because of government support, Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano said here Tuesday.

“In the past few years, 2011 up to now, you have seen radical progression of budgetary support from the Congress and also sponsored by the President,” Serrano noted during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Food Security Week and High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and the Blue Economy.

In 2010, before President Benigno S. Aquino III came into power, the DA’s budget was P20 billion. This went up significantly that by 2013, the budget was P64 billion, which is 4.6 times the P14 billion budget in 2004.

From 2009 to 2012, the average DA budget was P4.1 billion. This was 52 percent higher than the average P27 billion from 2004 to 2008.

This year, President Aquino approved an P88-billion budget for the department.

“This substantial increase of (resources) has enabled us to reach more of our constituents,” Serrano said.

He however admitted that farmer groups have been continually advocating for a higher budget share, “saying they need more.”

Serrano said such calls are “true in the areas we still need to cover”.

This year’s APEC theme of inclusive growth highlights the need for all sectors to be involved in boosting the country’s economy. (APEC Communications Group)

‘Block farming’ to improve food production, inclusive growth, Philippine official tells APEC
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking into the possibility of implementing “block farming” in all levels of agricultural land to improve food production and inclusive growth, Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano said on Tuesday.

Block farming is the combining of small farms into one big farm.

Programs like block farming will help local stakeholders, particularly the farmers, participate in the country’s economic growth, Serrano said during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Food Security Week and High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and the Blue Economy.

Although it has always been a “challenge to cover everybody”, Serrano said the “overall objective” of the government is still inclusivity.

To do this, he said local government units must ensure that “small stakeholders” are included in the process of economic growth through coordinated programs with concerned agencies, such as block farming.

The program, which just began this month, makes sure that farmers profit more from their small lands. By combining the small farms, the need for manpower is greatly reduced. The profit from hiring less hands and producing more are split evenly among the small-scale farmers.

Serrano said this program was initiated because the sugar industry has “turned over itself”.

“It used to be (that we) have plenty of big farms but now, we have something like 75 percent of sugar farms are small. Most of these are agrarian reform beneficiaries,” he added.

He said the coverage of block farming “has been limited but pretty much encouraging in terms of performance and indicators of success”.

“We intend to support this all over the country,” Serrano said.

The mandate of the department is not just farmers, he said, adding that there are also landless workers in farms, including those in far-flung areas, which need the assistance of the agriculture department.

These challenges all the more highlight the “necessity to be able to converge and coordinate with all government agencies, particularly with those government agencies (that would) reach up to the local government level,” Serrano noted.

This year’s APEC theme of inclusive growth highlights the need for all sectors to be involved in boosting the economy. (APEC Communications Group)

Amended fishery law is good for fishery sector, says Philippine official
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) A Philippine agriculture official said the amendments to the country’s Fishery Code, being opposed by a number of fishermen, would actually benefit the country in the long term.

Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano of the Department of Agriculture said during a press briefing here on Tuesday that one of the significant amendments to the Philippine Fishery Code is the recognition of the need to combat illegal and unregulated fishing.

Allowing fishermen to fish unlawfully brands the country as an “unsavory” source of fish products in the export market, Serrano said, referring to Republic Act 10654.

A lot of markets are fending off fishery products of unknown origin, whether they are poached from other territories or illegally harvested, he said.

“It will benefit us. It is for our own good that we are able to impose discipline on our own fishing industry,” he added.

“Whether we like it or not, the fishery sector will become increasingly the dominant sector in our economy.”

If the government fails to regulate the domestic fishing industry, it cannot manage such rich fishing grounds as Benham Rise, over which the country already has jurisdiction, he said.

“We need to be able to monitor all vessels, particularly the commercial ones,” he said, adding that these vessels should not intrude in municipal waters intended for small fishermen.

Philippine authorities also have to monitor vessels coming from other countries that might poach the country’s water resources, he pointed out.

“But we have to have the legal framework to be able to do this,” he said.

With the new law, authorities could monitor all the activities of fishing vessels, and they could also impose a certification method, he said.

The implementing rules and regulations of the law have been signed by the agriculture secretary and will take effect 15 days after publication in major dailies.

Fishermen’s organizations, which have initiated fish holidays, have complained that the amendments will entail more costs because of the requirement to install monitoring equipment and other facilities.

Despite the strong opposition, Serrano emphasized that the implementation of RA 10654 is the right thing to do.

Republic Act 10654 (An Act to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing) amended Republic Act No. 8550, otherwise known as The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998. PND (as)

President Aquino leads Liberal Party meeting on 2016 elections
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday attended the meeting of the Liberal Party (LP), which formally declared Manuel “Mar” Roxas II as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in the 2016 national elections.

In an impromptu speech delivered at the party’s headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City, President Aquino stressed the importance of choosing a candidate who would ensure the continuity of his administration’s Daang Matuwid advocacy.

He also reminded those running for elective posts next year to campaign for Roxas first.

“Sa darating na kampanya, at ito ay talagang matinding pakiusap, siguro bago ‘yung sarili nating kandidatura ang isipin natin, ang pinakaimportante may Pangulo tayong magpapatuloy ng tuwid na daan. Iyon po ang kailangan nating hilingin sa mga kababayan natin na merong baka magpatuloy at meron naman tayong siguradong hindi magpapatuloy, e ‘di doon na tayo sa siguradong magpapatuloy,” said President Aquino, also the president of LP’s National Executive Council.

The Chief Executive promised to do his best as he expects a difficult campaign for next year’s elections.

“Mga ilang beses ko na rin ho nasabi sa mga nakalipas na araw, palagay ko ‘yung darating na kampanya ang magiging pinakamahirap na kampanya para sa akin dahil ibubuhos ko na lahat ng maibubuhos ko tungo sa kampanyang ito,” he said.

President Aquino however also said that campaigning could be easy.

“Sa kabilang panig naman po madali, dahil hindi tayo nangangako, ipapaalala lang natin ‘yung nagawa na at ipapakita ‘yung pwedeng magawa pa,” he said.

The LP has yet to name its candidate for vice president, although Roxas has asked Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo to be his running mate. PND (jm)

APEC tackles co-existence of genetically modified organisms with organic farming vis-a-vis food security in the region
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have tackled the co-existence of genetically modified organism-based (GMO) farming and organic farming in relation to ensuring food security in the region.

On the margins of the High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and the Blue Economy (HLPD-FSBE), public and private sectors of APEC economies held the Forum on Global Alliance for Agri-Biotech Trade (GAABT) Model Policy on Low-level Presence (LLP) and GM and Organic Farming Co-Existence, at the Iloilo Convention Center here on Wednesday.

The forum discussed emerging trends in agricultural biotechnology, as well as the importance of harmonizing regulatory issues that will facilitate trade and development of this technology.

These developments aim to improve agricultural productivity to ensure food security among APEC economies.

GM and organic farming preferences in APEC

Chair of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Biotechnology Advisory Team Saturnina Halos mentioned that the rate of adoption of organic farming is higher than GM farming since the former was introduced in the 1920s while the first commercial GMO was planted only in 1996.

Halos cited that 18 out of 21 APEC member economies have organic agriculture areas.

On the other hand, seven of the APEC economies have adopted GM-crop production — Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Mexico, United States, and the Philippines.

Halos mentioned that Vietnam and Indonesia are also following other APEC economies in adopting GM farming.

Globally, about 43.2 million hectares of land are allotted for organic agriculture, while 18.5 million hectares are for GM farming.

Common objective

Organic farming, which relies on traditional techniques of production, and GM farming, using modern biotechnology techniques for crop production, aim for an economically viable, safe, and environment-friendly agricultural system.

Both aim for a sustainable agriculture sector amid challenges, such as climate change.

Co-existence issue

Co-existence practice, on the other hand, is the simultaneous cultivation of organic and genetically engineered crops — which have different quality or intended for different markets — in the same geographic area.

Halos however noted that the common issue in gaining support for GM and organic farming co-existence is cross-pollination.

“The possibility of interbreeding among the plants in each farming type is high because of proximity and if plants are of the same stage of growth and flower at the same time. This may lead to the adventitious presence of GM crops in non-GM crops,” she explained.

She said for GM and organic farming to co-exist while preventing cross-pollination, the following measures must be considered: different planting times; use of buffer zones; sufficient distance between farms; and physical isolation.

The forum on GAABT Model Policy on LLP and GM and Organic Farming Co-Existence targets to come up with strategies for APEC to push this development in agricultural technology. PNA (kc)

APEC seeks wider use of agricultural biotechnology to ensure food security
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Agricultural and biotechnology experts from around the Pacific Rim converged here on Wednesday to develop regulatory frameworks, facilitate technology transfer, encourage investment and strengthen public confidence regarding biotechnology, in an effort to increase agricultural productivity and protect the environment, with the ultimate objective of promoting food security.

The two-day High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB), one of a cluster of agriculture-focused Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gatherings that are being held here this week, seek to widen the availability of agricultural biotechnologies to help ensure adequate food supplies and boost the livelihoods of farmers.

It focuses on improving innovation within the agricultural sector as a path towards greater food security. This includes cross-cutting support for agricultural biotechnologies to enhance crop yields and reduce losses due to weather, pests or post-harvest transport and handling.

Agricultural biotechnology, a revolutionary tool that is transforming the agricultural sector, can boost production for small, rural farmers and thus play a role in alleviating poverty.

Biotechnologies also have the capacity to lessen the impact of agriculture on the environment by limiting the need for pesticides and irrigation. However, their increased development and use require a complementary policy environment.

According to experts, when economies deploy varying rules and regulations for agricultural development and management, it becomes more difficult for new ideas and innovations to flow across borders

The APEC economies are intent on enhancing policy harmonization within the sector. Such harmonization is needed to lower barriers that impact agricultural trade and investment, and foster the co-development and transfer of biotechnology that can benefit small-scale farmers.

Measures that promote increased transparency and understanding of agricultural sector regulation are key agenda focuses. Another area of emphasis is providing governing bodies with knowledge and tools that support the implementation of best practices, identified through the sharing of experiences in biotechnologies and biogenetic resource management.

According to policymakers, coordinated agricultural policymaking and technical capacity building, for example, training on responsible investment principles and crop forecasting technology, can facilitate the more balanced adoption of biotechnologies in the region.

Agricultural and biotechnology experts, meanwhile, pointed out that science and technology are of great importance in ensuring food security. They stressed that as biotechnologies become a more integral component of agricultural production and as public confidence grows as their value becomes more apparent, there is an opportunity to take significant steps forward in addressing the region’s long-term agricultural demands.

Department of Agriculture Undersecretary and Chair of the 2015 APEC HLPDAB, Segfredo Serrano, also emphasized the importance of exploring new ideas and sharing of experiences among countries so that they benefit from these, and in imploring other economies that have not yet adopted modern technologies for agricultural development.

The first high-level policy dialogue on agricultural biotechnology took place in 2002. (APEC Communications Group)

APEC tackles strengthening of biotechnology for food security, resiliency
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology Meeting kicked off here on Wednesday with discussions focusing on enhancing cooperation to strengthen agricultural biotechnology.

Member economies of the APEC recognize the crucial role of agricultural biotechnology in improving productivity and resiliency in the agriculture sector to ensure food security in the region.

The meeting, chaired by the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, aims to develop policy frameworks and strategies to develop and commercialize beneficial biotechnology and their products.

“We will discuss not only the experiences of the APEC economies on agricultural biotechnology but as well as emerging trends, and of particular importance would be regulatory issues as well as harmonization issues,” Serrano said.

“We will attempt to harmonize so as not to unduly hamper the trade and development of this technology that can be utilized for agricultural development and improving agricultural productivity,” he added.

The two-day meeting will focus on the following key areas:

• fostering the benefits of innovations in plant breeding and science communication;
• policy approaches and initiatives, challenges and considerations to managing low-level presence situations;
• policy considerations and current practices on co-existence of agricultural production systems; and
• recent developments and potential applications of animal biotechnologies.

It was noted that biotechnology would help agricultural products withstand challenges facing the agriculture sector, such as climate change, making them more resilient.

Food security is crucial among APEC economies as 70 percent of the world’s hungry population are in the Asia-Pacific region.

Iloilo City is currently hosting the High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and the Blue Economy, which will conclude on October 6. PNA (kc)

Agriculture official highlights potentials of Philippine products in export market
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The government continues to develop programs that address the needs of the agriculture sector to make the country’s products globally competitive, an agriculture official has said.

During a press briefing here Tuesday, Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano said a number of Philippine products are traditional winners in the export market, among them coconut, pineapple, banana, and mango.

“We are the number one coconut country in the world. We are the number one coconut exporter. But if you look at the developments now, we are exporting and developing the coco water industry, coco coir. Even the oleochemical industry is based on coconut,” he added.

These are the products that the Philippines will roll out in the near future that have an edge in the global competition, he said.

Serrano noted the country’s efforts to improve its competitiveness in the global market, citing that the government has begun to address concerns on the packaging of Philippine products, while the Department of Agriculture is looking into the development of new products.

He however pointed out that local producers need not look far in marketing their products.

“You cannot just concentrate on the export market but virtually forget your big domestic market,” he said, referring to the country’s 100 million population.

“It is still the (local) market that supports our producers in a major way,” he added

Serrano further said that the country’s burgeoning tourism industry could be tapped to help the agriculture sector, as well as rural industries.

The increasing number of tourists who come to the Philippines add to the country’s consumer base, he said, explaining that the good thing about this is that it is like exporting local products, without them leaving the country and being subjected to the restrictive measures they usually encounter when they enter the foreign market. PND (as)