DENR puts up water conservation policies in Mt Makiling Forest Reserve with sustainability threats from resorts operations

DENR puts up water conservation policies in Mt Makiling Forest Reserve with sustainability threats from resorts operations

May 30, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is putting up water conservation policies in the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve (MMFR) as the water-intensive resorts in the protected area threaten water resource sustainability in Laguna.

            DENR is putting up water conservation policies in the local government units (LGU) of Los Banos and Calamba City to address the unseen threat in water resources that can arise from the influx of tourists visiting the increasing number of resorts.

Water-intensive resorts flourish in Laguna while threatening the aquifers of the Mt. Makiling watershed

            DENR is now employing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to analyze the spatial distribution of resorts in Los Banos and Calamba City.  Its study also involves formulation of a mechanism by which tourists could be charged with a fee for using the environmental resources of Laguna.

            “The project employs economic methods to analyze the willingness-to-pay of visitors for improved water conservation practices by resorts and the conservation of MMFR to secure water services,” said            DENR.

            The government has been concerned that the number of resorts in Los Baños has increased over the last seven years from 42 to 171 in Los Banos. In Calamba City, the number of resorts has increased from 466 to 855 from 2014 to 2020.

            The watershed of Mount Makiling is important in supporting the domestic, agricultural, and industrial water requirements of Los Baños and Calamba City.

            Mt. Makiling is a dormant volcano.  This is the reason why its underground water gives rise to hot springs.  Thus, it encouraged the establishment of numerous resorts with the natural hot spring water in swimming pools and baths.

            While the resorts operations have generated higher income for operators and gave livelihood opportunities for other tourism-oriented (restaurants, food stalls, convenience stores), this has brought about negative side effects, such as that of the use of water resources by the industry.

               DENR’s project called “Economics, Policies and Institutions of Groundwater Use by Resorts in Los Baños and Calamba, Laguna” is hoped to ensure sustainable water operations despite continuing existence of the tourism businesses.             “Majority of visitor respondents have expressed their willingness to pay for the conservation of groundwater resource from Mount Makiling. They want to contribute to the conservation efforts.  They agreed that current practices are wasteful because groundwater is indeed limited,” said DENR. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Philippines, India jointly eye $12 billion global seaweeds market

May 29, 2021

The Philippines and India are jointly eyeing a $12 billion global market or 32 million metric tons (MT) for seaweeds as a bilateral cooperation takes off complementarily between both developing countries.

   While China and Indonesia dominate by 80% the global market, the two countries are optimistic of commonly boosting production of seaweeds and its processed form, carrageenan, through business and technical cooperation.

   The growing bilateral relations in marine fisheries and aquaculture is brought about by eagerness of private companies from both countries to invest in each other’s sector as a result of a pioneering work of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI).

Seaweed culture farming in Zamboanga. Credit-NAST

   PCAFI President DAnilo V. Fausto the industry is “happy and delighted” that Indian Ambassador to Philippines Shambhu S. Kumaran brought up the idea of the India Philippines Virtual Business Conference on Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture (IPBC-MFA).  The first of such IPBC-MFA was held Thursday.

   “Indian fisheries sector produces over 7 million tons of fish and shellfish from capture fisheries and aquaculture, almost double of that produced by the Philippines, representing nearly 5% of the world’s total fish production,” said Fausto.

   Yet, Fausto said both countries can immensely benefit from exchange of resources, technology, know-how as Philippines also has much to offer.

   “Philippine aquaculture has strong potential for further expansion and development with our vast resources 338,393 hectares of swampland, 14,531 hectares of freshwater fishponds, and 239,323 hectares of brackish water fishponds,” Fausto said.

   “The Philippines sits at the heart of the coral triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity.  The Verde Island Passage boasts the highest concentration of marine species with its reefs as home to nearly 60% of the world’s known fishes and 300 species of corals.”

   During the business conference,   Dr. Munisamy Shanmugham M/s Aqua Agro Processing Manamaduria (Tamil Nadu)  vice president, said this is the time to invest in aquaculture, including seaweeds in India. Government, he said, has allotted budget of INR 640 crore ($88.34 million) to promote the industry and provides subsidy for seaweed cultivation.

   “There is huge demand for seaweed hydrocolloids in India, but currently 50-90% is met through imports,” said Shanmughan.

  There are new areas –Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch—that may be considered for seaweed cultivation to meet India’s demand.

   India just started to establish in 2010 its processing facilities for producing carrageenan, a value-added processed form of seaweed. Carrageenan acts as emulsifier, thickener, additive, and preservative in food and consumer products. It is an input in manufacturing dairy, gelatin, and meat products and other high value consumer products such as toothpaste and gels.

   The Philippines is a global leader in carrageenan and seaweeds and has put up its processing facilities way earlier than other countries. Its seaweeds and carrageenan exports totals to around $200 to $250 million yearly. It has strength in technology and know-how in carrageenan manufacturing. It was the first in the world to develop seaweed species Euchema and Kappaphycus for commercial cultivation for carrageenan.

Carrageenan, a thickener, enhancer, emulsifer, preservative. Credit-Medium

   Even with that, the Philippines still has huge expansion area of 140,000 hectares of potential seaweed farm for expansion, according to Alfredro Pedrosa III, Seaweed Industry Assn of the Philippines (SIAP), said in the same conference.

   “These are the resources that sustain our industry. We have available farm area of 200,000 hectares along coastlines.  Only 60,000 hectares are farmed.  We have 500,000 hectares of deep-sea available farmable area,” said Pedrosa.

   Opportunities for investments in the Philippines in seaweed industry are ripe, Pedrosa said, as domestic demand exceeds supply.

   The following factors also augur well for seaweed investments, he said:  ASEAN market integration, consumer preference for natural products such as seaweeds, and new climate change adaptation strategies and COVID pandemic recovery.

   The Philippines has continuing research and development (R&D) activities on other seaweed species.  Surprisingly, there is an abundance of 893 seaweed species in the Philippines, he said. But only a few are used for carrageenan of perhaps less than 10 species including Eucheuma, Gracilaria, Sargassum, and Kappaphycus.  Other seaweeds species to be cultured are Halymenia, Porpyra, and Ulva Lactuca. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Philippines, India looks at enormous fishery trade opportunity starting with Philippines’ potential investment in tuna processing facilities in India

May 27. 2021

The Philippines and India are looking at enormous opportunity for trade cooperation on marine fishery and aquaculture starting off with Philippines’ potential investments in putting up tuna processing facilities in India or importing its needed tuna raw materials from India.

   India’s fishery industry players led by Indian Ambassador to the PHilippines Shambhu S. Kumaran have invited members of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Fisheries Inc. (PCAFI) led by Chairman Philip L. Ong, also aquaculture feeds maker Santeh Feeds chairman, to look at investment and technology exchange in fisheries. 

   “It will be the start of a long process of linking to raise productivity.  We invite you to look at business opportunities in India,” said Kumaran during the India Philippines Marine Fisheries & Aquaculture virtual business conference.

PCAFI Chairman Philip L. Ong optimistic of investments, technology exchange in marine fisheries and aquaculture between India and Philippines

   Cherian Kurian, managing director of India’s M/s HIC ABF Special Foods, there is a huge opportunity for tuna value addition in India as it produces largely tuna ready for canning.  This is where Philippines’ global leadership in tuna processing and canning comes in. Tuna is one of the Philippines’ largest seafood export with a yearly value of $350-$400 million.

   Frabelle Fishing Corp President Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said tuna fishing in India is also a potential opportunity for local fish producers.

   “Tuna fleet is willing to expand when they’re woelcome to fish,” said Laurel.

   Local tuna processors-canners can put up canning facilities in India. 

   However,   Francisco Buencamino, Tuna Canners Assn of the Philippines executive director, said it may be advantageous rather to import India’s raw tuna production and process these locally.  This is because the Philippines has preferential duty privileges to the European Union in tuna export.

   Kurian said India’s oceanic tuna resource potential within its exclusive economic zone reaches to 2.13 million metric tons (MT) with yellowfin taking up 54% and skipjack 40% of total.   Kurian said India can start exporting tuna to the Philippines in bigger volume. This way, the Philippines can maximize its processing-canning capabilities.

   Another area of cooperation is shrimp as India may extend technology and research and development (R&D) to Philippines which suffers from difficulty handling shrimp diseases.

   India is the world’s largest shrimp producer and exporter particularly the vannamei species. It exports 90% of shrimp production, exporting almost 50% to the United STates.   Still, there is 9.7 million hectares of potential shrimp area in India.  Of this, 8.5 million hectares are waterlogged saline areas and 1.2 million hectares of brackishwater.

   Miguel Rene A. Dominguez, Alsons Agribusiness Unit vice president, said there is an opportunity to raise productivity in shrimp and mangrove crab production in the Philippines. India’s technology expertise in these technologies may potentially help raise Philippines’ shrimp and mangrove crab production.  End

   For the Philippines’s hatchery, there is a huge opportunity in Finfish, shrimp and crab.    “The Philippines has a rich reservoir of resources both physical and know-how for aquaculture development.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

DENR carries out $150 million project for enhanced ecosystems through USAID bilateral assistance fund

May 27, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is carrying out a $150 million (P7.25 billion) project for enhanced ecosystems through a bilateral assistance fund from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

   As the United States government marks this year its 75th year of bilateral relations with the Philippines, it has further committed to a project to help the country in sustainable development.

   The bilateral assistance agreement was signed last February by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and USAID.

   “The agreement aims to protect ecosystems, promote the sustainable use of natural resources, and build the capacity of people, communities and institutions to withstand, cope and recover from shocks and stresses so that people and ecosystems thrive,” said Sean Callahan, Acting Mission Director of USAID. 

   Two of the projects covered by the bilateral agreement are SIBOL and Safe Water Project (SWP). SIBOL or Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans and Landscapes is a five-year, P1.1 billion ($22 million) project.

   The project supports DENR in improving natural resource governance, stimulating public and private sector investments in conservation, and reducing environmental crime, leading to greater ecosystem stability and inclusive green growth. The project also includes provision for communities’ access to clean water and sanitation services.

   SIBOL works with the Biodiversity Management Bureau, Forest Management Bureau, and DENR’s field offices in Central Luzon (Region 3), Southern Luzon (Region 4B) and the CARAGA Administrative Region (Region 13). 

   SIBOL’s implementation is led by RTI International, a U.S.-based non-profit organization.  It has three decades of experience providing technical assistance, institutional strengthening, programmatic support, and research in a variety of sectors in the Philippines.
   Meanwhile, SWP is a five-year worth P870 million ($18.4 million).  It works to improve water security for vulnerable and underserved communities. 

   Working with both the national and local governments, SWP supports initiatives to increase access to resilient water supply and sanitation services.  It aims to improve the sustainable management of water resources that enable long-term water provisioning.

   Also part of SWP’s mandate is to strengthen the governance and regulation of the water sector. 

   SWP’s implementation is coordinated with NEDA and with multiple sections of the DENR.  These include the Forest Management Bureau, DENR field offices in Southern Luzon (Region 4B), Western Visayas (Region 6), and SOCCSKSARGEN. It also works with the National Water Resources Board.  

   The project is being implemented by the DAI Global LLC which carries a long history of working in the Philippine water sector. 

   SWP is also coordinated with local organizations, Orient Integrated Development Consultants, Inc. (OIDCI), Lutheran World Relief, Inc. (LWR), CEST, Inc., Geosciences Foundation Inc., and the Manila Observatory.  

“The long history of the partnership between DENR and USAID has been fruitful.  We have achieved much in creating a more secure environment that sustains both ecological integrity and human development. It has led to the improved management of protected areas and strengthened environmental law enforcement. It has increased public awareness about the challenges of wildlife trafficking and improved water security through integrated watershed management, among others,” said Sean Callahan, Acting Mission Director of USAID. 

   “As USAID and the Philippines mark the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations this year, I am truly optimistic that these memorandum of understanding will help us achieve many more milestones together as we work toward our shared goal of inclusive and resilient growth for all Filipinos,” he added

   Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu looks forward to the partnership.

   “We always welcome effective collaboration to continue the advancement and sustainability of how we protect our ecosystem and natural resources,” he said.

   “USAID has always been a consistent and effective ally for the DENR for the past years. They have supported us for years in creating sustainable models which guided us in increasing and strengthening our policies for the management of our ecosystems. That is why we are looking forward to more meaningful years with USAID in advancing our shared goals of environmental sustainability and improving the lives of the Filipino communities.”    Since 2014, USAID has provided more than P5 billion ($100 million) in assistance to the Philippine government in conserving the country’s biodiversity and protecting its landscapes and seascapes. 

DENR strengthens five seaports’ seizure capability for illegal wildlife trade

May 25, 2021

The government is strengthening five seaports’ capability to seize illegally traded wildlife in light of unabated cases of wildlife smuggling that threatens biodiversity, consequently the nation’s economic resources.

    The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-attached Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) has entered in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to combat illegal wildlife trade (IWT) beginning with the country’s five major seaports.

    The seaports in the south include the Lipata Port in Surigao del Norte, and Nasipit Port in Agusan del Norte. In Metro Manila, these are the ports of Manila —  Manila North Harbor,  Manila South Harbor , and Manila International Container Terminal.

Illegal wildlife trade renders to extinction endangered species. Credit-ADB

   DENR-BMB and PPA have started evaluating emergency responses to wildlife smuggling of these five seaports. Data showed that over the last 10 years (2010 to 2020), there have been 17 cases of wildlife confiscations in ports overseen by the PPA. 

   The MOA involves partnership to combat IWT in all of the 337 PPA-registered seaports nationwide. 

   According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), IWT is estimated to have a value of $23 billion per year.  This makes it the fourth “largest transnational crime” in the world after narcotics, human trafficking, and arms.

Philippines’ most illegally traded species. Credit-ADB

   With the assistance of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-6) through the project

“Combating Environmental Organized Crime in the Philippines,” DENR-BMB is implementing a three-year project on capability building against IWT.  It is co-implemented with the  Asian Development Bank.

   “It aims to combat environmental organized crime in the Philippines through legal and

institutional reforms, capacity building in the full law enforcement chain, and reduction of demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife parts and derivatives,” DENR said.

   Earlier assessment of the five seaports indicated flaws that have to be addressed in order to fight wildlife trafficking. The evaluation found out that there is an absence of a “single window environment for Electronic Clearance System in the ports. 

    There has also been a lack of intelligence and intelligence access on a regional scale that may help the early detection and interception of wildlife contrabands entering the port.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)


 These problems also have to be addressed so that government will be able to stop or reduce cases of IWT:

1.       Lack of risk profiling system complemented with wildlife crime risk indicators;

2.       Absence of a K9 Unit able to detect wildlife, by-products, and derivatives

3.       Absence  of established standard operating procedures for inspection and seizure of wildlife and other illicit goods;

4.       Absence of a protocol on post seizure investigation of cases;

5.       ABsence of an information exchange system with local ports (for PPA) but under-maximized communication exchange with international institutions;

6.       Absence of an established system to maintain employees’ integrity and professional standards and to deter corrupt practices; and,

7.       Absence participation of industry operators, and need for greater cooperation and support from other supply chains.

Highly-toxic mercury use in mining to be eliminated in Philippines’ compliance with Minamata Convention

May 23, 2021

  The government is strengthening regulations against the use of highly toxic

mercury in mining in compliance with the Minamata Convention that protects the

environment and human health from mercury emissions reaching to 1,000 tons yearly.

    The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is

implementing a program that establishes national policies ensuring elimination of

mercury’s use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).

      DENR said it is implementing the “Global Opportunities for Long-term

Development of Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector (GOLD-ASGM)” project

under the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and with the United Nations Environment

Program (UNEP). 

Mercury is vaporized to extract gold, creating toxicity in human when inhaled

   Grant amount for both countries totals to P585 million until 2024.  The Philippine

government through DENR has a counterpart funding of P96 million.

   The project will help small miners shift to legal mining that uses mercury-free

technology. It will empower small miners and help raise their income and livelihood by

producing higher value-added products such as jewelry from mere raw gold ore.

   “Meaningful economic incentives as well as adequate community development

strategies are needed to fully aid mining communities with their formalization efforts,”

said the DENR.

    The project also aims to address issues of ASGM like hazardous working

conditions, child labor, and gender gaps through capacity building and assistance to

government agencies in developing relevant policies, DENR said.

   The Philippines’s ASGM sector takes up a critical role in the economy, directly

employing 500,000 small miners and indirectly providing livelihood to two million people.

   According to the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau, there are 38 ASGM

operators in the Caraga region while 78 exist in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

   While mostly operating illegally, the ASGM sector accounts for 70% of the

country’s gold production.  The Philippines itself is one of world’s top 20 gold producers.

     DENR said the project sites for the gold project in the Philippines are Mountain

Province and Camarines Norte. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Youth invited to apply for Bayer’s 2021 virtual Youth Ag Summit, an agriculture entrepreneurship and leadership skills training

 June 19, 2021 – Applications are now open for the 2021 Youth Ag Summit (YAS), a global forum and biennially organized conference where young leaders collaborate to develop sustainable solutions for food security and global agriculture as they work toward becoming global instruments of change.

While this is the 5th biennial Youth Ag Summit, it will be the first virtual YAS event. This year’s cohort will also benefit from another exciting YAS first. As an official global partner with Bayer for this year’s forum, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), in partnership with technology company Babele, will also provide a virtual idea incubator called YAS University where delegates will continue to learn entrepreneurship and leadership skills, receive coaching from mentors, and improve their own “Thrive for Change” project concepts throughout a 10-week period following the November summit.

The summit’s overall theme, “Feeding a Hungry Planet,” is based on the United Nations’ prediction that the planet’s population will reach 9.7 billion people by 2050 and will be faced with food security challenges. The 100 delegates selected to participate in this year’s Youth Ag Summit will be tasked to work on developing solutions to this challenge using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations as their framework.

2019 delegates of the Youth Ag Summit, Brasilia, Brazil

Christine Jodloman, Associate Director of AGREA Foundation and the sole Filipino delegate in the 2019 YAS held in Brazil, shares her experience. “My YAS experience has been amazing and humbling, as I was able to meet, connect, and get inspired by my fellow youth ag changemakers around the world.”

In the event, Jodloman was able to share her work and advcocacy on grassroots agripreneurship for rural farming communities. According to her, delegates from around the world were able to provide suggestions and improvements, which she has been integrating in their youth and women programs at AGREA. Within the organization, Jodloman also helps in their Move Food Initiative as a facilitator to farmer groups, wherein they were able to provide 190,000 kg of produce and help 30,000 farmers in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.

“Agriculture is not just about growing food, but it also means growing the future,” added Jodloman. “We need a future with a thriving agricultural sector, where people and the planet are prioritized. I believe the youth are willing to be more involved in agriculture when it’s communicated in a positive way.”

“This is a great opportunity for the youth to be empowered and take the lead in sustaining Philippine agriculture,” said Iiinas Ivan Lao, Country Commercial Lead of Bayer Crop Science. “With the Youth Ag Summit, delegates can learn from each other and find out which ag successes in countries that can be adopted locally. This is also consistent with the Department of Agriculture’s push for agriculture promotion among the youth for food security in succeeding generations.”

Associate Director of AGREA Foundation and the sole Filipino delegate in the 2019 YAS held in Brazil

Application for the 2021 Youth Ag Summit is open to young people of any background aged 18-25. Potential delegates will be asked to share their motivation to join the summit, their previous advocacy experience and a 3-minute video pitch explaining their project idea on “How to feed a hungry planet.” Examples of projects pitched and developed from earlier summits include the opening of Sri Lanka’s Kadamandiya Food Bank and the establishment of a Madagascar health clinic where workers harvest essential grains in fields nearby to supplement their patient’s nutritional needs.

Applicants should be personally, professionally, and academically interested in agriculture, international development, environmental stewardship, food security, biotechnology, and/or farming.

To apply for the Youth Ag Summit 2021, please visit To learn more, follow #AgvocatesWithoutBorders on Twitter and Youth Ag Summit (@youthagsummit) on the YAS Instagram channel.  Application closes on June 30, 2021. The Youth Ag Summit will be held on November 16-17, 2021.

Degraded mangrove coastal area adopted by Bayer as Rhizophora farm to help sustain biodiversity, generate livelihood and income

May 16, 2021

By Melody Mendoza Aguiba

A degraded mangrove coastal area in Barangay Buayan, General Santos City has been adopted as a “Rhizophora” farm by Bayer Crop Science in an aim to help sustain biodiversity, protect the community from storm surges, and generate livelihood and income.

   Called “Adopt a Coastal Special Protection Area,” the project was initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the city.

   “It will generate income for the community from the seedlings that they’re able to grow. We will encourage them to maintain the transplanted seedlings in a portion of the coastal area,” said Richard Bangoy, Bayer Crop Science regional field technical lead for Philippines and Indonesia.

   An initial 200 seedlings of the mangrove variety Rhizophora mucronata have so far been planted in the mangrove area by Bayer. 

   The Rhizophora varieties have been identified by the City Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) office of General Santos as Rhizophora has been naturally occurring in the area for a long time. It has been the long-known adaptable mangrove variety that better survives diseases and climate changes..

   Rhizophora mucronata has multiple uses, multiplying potential sources of income for the Barangay Buayan community.

   Aside from helping prevent coastal erosion, its timber is used for firewood and in the construction of buildings, as poles and pilings, and in making fish traps.

   The fruits can be cooked and eaten or the juice extracted to make wine, and the young shoots can be consumed as a vegetable. The bark is used in tanning and a dye can be extracted from both bark and leaves. Various parts of the plant are used in folk medicine.

   The degraded coastal area in Barangay Buayan has made the community vulnerable to harsh impacts of climate change — storms and tsunamis.

   “General Santos City’s environment and natural resources have been under threat from various environmental issues and problems from deforestation and conversion of forestlands, degradation of its rivers and coastal waters and resources from erosion, pollution and anthropogenic activities, climate change, among others,” said Bangoy.

   Protecting the community from serious disasters (such as what happened to Leyte communities during the very destructive Yolanda storm) is a major objective in rehabilitating the coastal area.

Bayer employees give back to the environment and the community of Brgy Buayan, General Santos City through mangrove planting

   “Mangroves are the first line of defense for coastal communities. They stabilize shorelines by slowing erosion and provide natural barriers protecting coastal communities.”

   The communities in Barangay Buayan have contributed to putting up the nursery for Rhizophora.  They are the ones picking up seeds or seedlings and first grow these seedlings up to a height of one foot to 1.5 foot before transplanting to more vulnerable coastal areas exposed to the tide.  They also water the transplanted plants.  

   Over the longer term, the mangrove area may potentially generate livelihood from growing crabs or a local delicacy called “Tamilok.”  Tamilok is a kind of edible earthworm prepared into a dish like kinilaw or kilawin – a dish cooked in vinegar. 

   Bangoy also hopes that sustaining the environmental beauty in the coastal area of Barangay Buayan would help transform it into a tourist site near General Santos City airport.

   In the last eight years, Bayer has been supporting different environmental projects including a bamboo planting along the riverbanks of Barangay Tinagakan, General Santos City.    Bayer has a corn research and breeding station in the city and these efforts are a way of giving back to the local community there. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Ph posted ’embarrassingly high’ farmers’ poverty incidence of 31.6%, trade deficit of $5.9 billion, the only net food deficit in ASEAN5

May 14, 2021

The Philippines has posted an “embarrassingly high” poverty incidence among farmers of 31.6% and a whopping trade deficit of $5.9 billion that makes it the only net food deficit country in the ASEAN5.

   Private sector leaders led by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) deplored that the Philippines has been left behind by  ASEAN5 (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries. That is despite its being equally endowed in natural resources and even in numerous labor.

   Dr. Emil Q. Javier, chairman of the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization of the Philippines (CAM), an ally organization of PCAFI, said in a press briefing Thursday that Philippines’ food export just totaled to only $5.1 billion, a figure far exceeded by imports.

   “All is not well in Philippine agriculture. We have food exports of only $5.1 billion but trade deficit of $5.9 billion,  (That makes Philippines’) dubious distinction of being the  only net food deficit country among ASEAN 5,” he said. The other progressive ASEAN countries are Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore.

   A “nearsighted” focus of government leaders on what can be accomplished during their short, political 6-year term has made Philippines the laggard among progressing neighbors, according to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   He urged the government to plan on a long-term basis, not on a reactive basis on just what happens in the global economy.

   “Government leaders come and go based on their term.  But we in the private sector are invested in. Our children and our children’s children depend on agriculture for business and livelihood.  My appeal is for the government to consider agriculture not as charity but as a sustainable venture,” said Fausto.     

Dr. Emil Q. Javier, national scientist & former Department of Science and Technology secretary; Danilo V. Fausto, PCAFI president & DVF Dairy Inc. entrepreneurial founder

   As entrepreneurial founder of “Gatas ng Kalabaw” bottled carabao milk and other high-value dairy goods, Fausto said he has been in the dairy industry for 30 years.

   Javier is optimistic though that the Philippines indeed has a modern farm sector ( of progressive farmers and corporate farms)  with high productivity, profitable and competitive with imports.  Having been a consultant for multinational pineapple processor Del Monte, Javier has known world-class operations of Filipino food producers.

   “We can do better.  It is the small farmers and fisherfolk (SFF) who constitute the majority that are dragging our averages down,” he said.

  Fausto and Javier lamented that of the high 26% national poverty incidence as of 2018, the brunt of suffering goes to the farmers and people in the countryside.  Poverty incidence among farmers tops at 31.6%; fisherfolks,  26.2% percent; and individuals residing in rural areas at 24.5%.

   Javier is emphatic that government should adopt strategies that will make small farmers become “bigger” as they are organized into groups or clusters. 

   He said clustering is important because it will be the key to lifting SFF from poverty.

   When clustered, small farmers can enter the global supply chain where margins are bigger.     

   They can negotiate for higher prices in big supermarkets, even multinational ones.  They can also haggle to buy cheaper inputs when they buy fertilizers or seeds in bulk. Economies of scale can be achieved, bringing down cost, when services (like transportation, irrigation, post harvest facilities, storage facilities) are delivered in bulk.

    “Farm consolidation will enable farmers to mechanize field operations to reduce costs; facilitate acquisition of inputs as well as credit; embark on value-adding (processing) at the community level; diversification into crops and other livelihood,” said Javier.

  A former Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary and a recently awarded National Scientist, Javier stressed contract growing will be the key to making small farmers bigger.

   “There should be promotion of contract growing as a business model.  It involves buyer-driven value chains that are working in broilers, swine, banana, pineapple, papaya, tobacco, okra (industries),” he said. 

   He said contract growing provides incentives to agribusiness integrators (mills, food processors, exporters, supermarkets) to expand into other commodities.

   Government should facilitate in “social mobilization of farmers” and helping in enforcement of contracts in a contract growing system.

   Himself a contract grower (of hybrid rice and other agricultural produce), Javier said agriculture leaders especially in government (Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, and Local government units) should not give up their efforts to organize farmers.

   “By organizing farmer associations e.g. coops, irrigators associations (IAS) agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (ARBOs), the small farmers are in a better position to be partners/players in the value chains.”

   “We should persevere (not give up!) in mobilizing, organizing farmers into cooperatives, IAS and ARBOs.”

   PCAFI and CAMP has supported a strong LGU-led development of the agriculture sector.

   Javier said the Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Service (PAFES), initiated by DA, should be strengthened as a national policy.

   That is a mandate already firmly established by the Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160).

   But capability building in LGUs is necessary to make this happen.

   “Unfortunately, the municipal agriculture offices (MAOs) proved to be suboptimal operating units to deliver rural extension services for various reasons, the principal of which is lack of personnel, expertise, and operating funds (especially in third and sixth class municipalities)

   “It is better to shift the locus of rural development planning, coordination and direction at the provincial level,” he said. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Duterte asked to issue EO institutionalizing provincial-led agri governance

May 13, 2021

 The private sector has asked President Duterte to issue an executive order (EO) institutionalizing a provincial-led agricultural governmance especially as local government units (LGs) will soon be awash with cash.  LGUs will have an additional P234.39 billion budget beginning in 2020 from the new Mandanas-Garcia ruling.

   The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc (PCAFI) and the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization of the Philippines (CAMP) have expressed support for a national policy putting the burden of agricultural governance to LGUs. 

   The EO must be issued, rather than just putting all responsibility for the farm sector’s administration to Department of Agriculture (DA) alone as what is the prevailing system.

   Dr. Emil Q. Javier, CAMP chairman, said in a press briefing that DA is in the right track in having set up a pilot program for this agriculture governance in the province. .

   However, instead of just a DA administrative order (AO), an EO will be a stronger national policy that will accelerate use of funds for food security and agriculture.  It will compel LGUs to put a major focus on agriculture and food security.

   “The tactical program in agriculture should be coursed to provincial offices to encourage provincial government (to focus on agriculture.)  We should organize extension officers in SUCs (state universities and colleges),” said Javier.

   “(DA) Secretary (William Dar ) already adopted the proposal and  has a pilot program  for provincial agriculture office.  But there should be more agriculture offices in the provinces.  It’s a good opportunity to call attention of the president by way of issuing an EO.”

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto such EO should already be issued by Duterte considering that budget for 2022 is now being prepared. 

PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto, CAMP Chairman Emil Q. Javier

   The EO is just in the right timing for the national government’s implementation of the Mandanas-Garcia Ruling of the Supreme Court.  The ruling ordered that LGUs should get a share of all national taxes, not only those collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, but all national tax collections.

   With this ruling LGUs are seen to raise their budget by 26.61% equivalent to P234.39 billion.

   PCAFI asserts that since the national government’s budget for DA will be reduced, it is just proper for LGUs to allocate 10% of their internal revenue allotment (IRA) for food security.

   “It is the interest and responsibility of LGUs to invest in food security,” said Fausto

   LGUs will have a total budget reaching to P1.083 trillion, given the new ruling’s implementation.

   “To create fiscal space, it is expected that some of the projects of the national agencies will be un-funded. With the policy of the current administration giving low priority to agriculture, we can project that the unfair allocation of the national budget to DA will further aggravate,” said Fausto.

   PCAFI has been asking for reform in budgeting for the agriculture sector.  It has been pressing for an allocation of at least 10% budget for agriculture out of the country’s estimated gross domestic product (GDP) – since agriculture contributes 10% of GDP.

   World Bank placed at US$ 367.36 Billion (₱17.82 Triilion @48.50) the country’s GDP as of 2020.

The Philippine Statistics Authority placed total agricultural production for 2020 at ₱1.78 trillion representing roughly 10 percent of the GDP.

   “Out of the total national budget of ₱4.506 trillion, the share of agriculture is a measly 1.5 percent or ₱66.4 Billion, despite contributing 10 percent to total GDP, showing clear disparity in budget allocation and the lack of priority given by the administration to food production leading to food sufficiency and food security,” said Fausto.

   As of March 2021, the agriculture sector employs 24.6 percent of Filipinos coming both from the labor force and not in the labor force equivalent to 18.5 million Filipinos, with those in the labor force representing 48.77 million workers and not in labor force of 26.26 million totaling 75 million Filipinos.

   “But, according to a paper written by Dr. Ciel Habito, if one considers agro-processing and agricultural inputs, manufacturing and trading (i.e. agribusiness sectors) along with basic agricultural production, about 40 percent of GDP and two-thirds of jobs in the economy arise from agriculture,”  said Fausto. 

   From the 2021 ₱66.4 Billion budget of the DA, livestock and poultry which contributes 28-31 percent of the total agriculture production, got ₱3.21 Billion or 3.68 percent of the total DA budget.

   On the other hand, the rice program that contributes 22 percent to the agriculture production got a budget of ₱35.27 Billion, representing 40.45 percent of the DA budget. If we are to include the budget for irrigation which is ₱31.0 Billion, the rice program is getting ₱65 Billion from the national budget since almost 100 percent of water irrigation goes to the rice program. In 2020, rice contributed ₱390.2 Billion.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)