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Date Posted October  2016

On September 8, 2016, the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) organized the Smart Agriculture Forum to strengthen awareness and appreciation on investing in research and development to achieve the greatest crop yield, quality and production in the midst of the changing environment and ecological conditions. With the theme “Food Security Challenges in the Face of Climate Change and ASEAN Integration”, the forum was attended by delegates from key government agencies headed by the Department of Agriculture (DA); local government units (LGUs); non-government organizations (NGOs); academic and research institutions; private companies involved in agricultural inputs, equipment and financial support; and international organizations.

The Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) participated in the forum which was held at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia, Pasay City. The Agency was represented by FPA Executive Director Norlito R. Gicana together with Ms. Aida V. Ordas, Chief of the FPA-Pesticide Regulations Division (PRD) and Ms. Suzettie M. Alcaide, Senior Agriculturist of the FPA- Fertilizer Regulations Division (FRD).

Sec. Ernesto Pernia, Director General of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and Secretary for Socio-Economic Planning, was the keynote speaker of the event. He emphasized that the private sector is the engine for economic development and that there is a need to build strong partnerships with the said sector to advance Philippine agriculture. He also mentioned that in 2005, the Philippines ranked second in ASEAN, next to Thailand, in terms of budget share in agriculture. However, the growth rate is 0.13%, which indicates that the budget allocated for agriculture is not translated into growth. He stressed that public and private sectors can work hand-in- hand to create opportunities in developing higher value chains, creating jobs, and providing a weather index crop insurance.

Afterwards, the forum, which was divided into three sessions, formally started. For the first session, the first speaker was no other than Sen. Francis Pangilinan. He discussed the legislative agenda to promote Philippine agriculture. According to him, the average annual income of a farmer is P23, 000.00, which is deemed unjust as Filipino farmers are continuously living in poverty. He said that in order for the economy to move forward, there is a need to address the issues of the agriculture industry. Sen. Pangilinan proceeded to discuss a few bills that are being proposed relative to the improvement of the Philippine agriculture sector. First was Sagip- Saka, a bill to direct the government to purchase from competitive agricultural cooperatives. There is also a bill being proposed to separate aquatic resources and fisheries from agriculture, which aims to address poverty in coastal areas because fisher folks remain to be the poorest of the poor. He also discussed another bill, which aims to alleviate poverty in far flung areas and to reduce food wastes due to lack of storage and transport facilities by mandating companies to donate good quality food for the poor. Sen. Pangilinan emphasized that in order to ensure food security, farmers and fisher folks have to be secured first.

The second speaker was Dr. Noel Padre, Director of the DA-Policy Research Service. He talked about the DA initiatives to prepare the Philippine agriculture sector for ASEAN integration. Some of which are: 1) strengthening regulatory services and enhancing product standards to ensure product quality and safety; 2) improving rural infrastructure to enhance productivity, connectivity and integration of production areas to markets; and 3) promoting diversification of production and livelihood options and 4) expanding markets like intensification of sustainable organic agriculture development. The last speaker for the first session was Dr. Fernando Bernardo of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP). His topic was about food security in the Philippines, its problems as well as its solutions. He said that the problem in achieving constant availability and sufficiency of food arises from several reasons such as high population rate, frequent typhoons, peace and order problems, socio-economic problems in rice production, and problems in shipment of agricultural supplies and food in the country. He stressed that the key solution lies in vital policy advocacies and strategies and strong partnerships of national government, provincial government, regional state universities and colleges (SUCs), and private sector to revitalize agricultural extension. He also presented the following policy advocacies: 1) convert Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) to Bureau of Agricultural Extension (BAE) with the functions of providing national policies and guidelines in developing proposals and equitable co-financing for viable annual extension programs; 2) sustain adequate annual budget; and 3) strengthen regional SUCs and PhilRice regional branch stations to develop site-specific technologies and to provide strong support to provincial extension programs. The second session focused on the innovative technologies and improvements in the value supply chain to achieve inclusive growth. The speakers of this session were Mr. Christopher Pile of Yara Fertilizers Philippines; Ms. Cindy Lim of Syngenta Asia Pacific; Ms. Jenny Costelloe of Grow Asia; Mr. Mashhood Siddiqui of Syngenta Philippines; Mr. Michael Caballes of Allied Botanical Corporation; Ms. Ruth Novales of Nestlé Philippines; and Mr. Recher Ondap of Bayer Philippines, Inc. Mr. Pile presented their company’s Crop Nutrition Approach aimed at increasing food production in the Philippines. It has three components: 1) crop knowledge; 2) application competence; and 3) portfolio combination. Ms. Lim, on the other hand, discussed the private sector’s initiatives in achieving food security and sustainable agriculture. She emphasized that the key for sustainable agriculture is the unity of the government, aid organizations, NGOs and businesses in providing overall support for the farmers. This is supported by Ms. Costellae as she presented the multi-stakeholder approach, which aims to improve farmers’ lives. 

Mr. Ondap presented the “Market Linkage Program: A Rice Value Chain Innovation”, which focused on four components: consumer, retailer, miller and farmer. He emphasized that it is important to recognize the role of each value chain component in establishing a sustainable rice market that will respond to the demand of the country’s growing population. This program fosters partnership and provides support in strengthening the knowledge, skills, resources and experiences of the whole value chain. Meanwhile, Mr. Siddiqui presented the holistic approach to optimize corn productivity, where he emphasized that in order to attain high production, it is important to start right and plant right through the following: 1) proper land preparation, 2) right seed from the start for better seed germination, 3) feeding the crops and not the weeds, and 4) protecting and boosting yield. Afterwards, Mr. Caballes presented about the seed innovations to improve the value chain of vegetables. Lastly, Ms. Novales discussed the “Nescafe Plan - A look at Public-Private Partnership in the Agriculture Sector”, a program which aims to improve farmers’ income through increase in yield. The elements of this program are the 1) provision of good planting materials, 2) sustained technical training and 3) provision of ready market. Presentations in the third session focused on empowering farmers and fishermen through cooperative organizations or corporate farming; capacity building; and technical and financial support. The first speaker for this session is Sen. Cynthia Villar, who discussed relevant capacity programs to promote agribusiness. Ms. Consolacion Galang, Congressional Committee Secretary for Agriculture and Food, talked about congressional initiatives on enhancing agricultural productivity. Afterwards, Cong. Arthur Yap presented about the crop insurance program, which aims to assist farmers in increasing their income amidst climate change. Other honourable guests such as Dr. Roberto Acosta, Dr. Zenaida Sumalde and Mr. Simeon Cuyson graced the said forum.#