Monday, March 30, 2015

RAFC 4B to help boost region's Halal industry

In a full council meeting spearheaded by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) December last year, stakeholders from different government agencies discussed the importance of forming a regional technical working group (TWG) to spearhead the development of the Halal industry in Region 4B (MIMAROPA).

“This is in view of the growing market worldwide for Halal products and the attractive business opportunities brought by the ASEAN Economic Community integration,” Regional Agriculture and Fishery Council (RAFC) 4B Chairperson Melquiades Macalintal explained.

The TWG is composed of officials from Department of Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry, National Commission of Muslim Filipinos, RAFC and a private sector representative. The Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) Executive Director will serve as chairperson.

A TWG meeting was held last March 13 in Quezon City “to identify all pertinent areas of concern and to formulate plans and programs on investment opportunities in the world market,” he added.

Prior to the meeting, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala signed a memorandum dated February 16, 2015 for the DA RFOs to create their respective TWGs in support to the DA Halal Food Industry Development Program.

“Halal industry is really an important area of concern that we should look into to identify all pertinent areas of concern and formulate plans and programs on investment opportunities for the Halal industry in MIMAROPA,” the RAFC chairperson said.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Charting local and national efforts for 2016

In light of the 2016 Budget Call, officials and staff of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) held a joint planning workshop for the upcoming year with Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council (RAFC) Executive Officers and Coordinators. This was held on February 10-13, 2015 at Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. The undertaking gave way for the harmonization of the agency’s 2016 plan and budget proposal with that of the RAFCs’ under the PCAF’s three core processes, namely, Agriculture and Fisheries Monitoring and Evaluation, Policy Development and Partnership Development. To ensure more effective implementation of agri-fishery projects in the local levels, the budget for the monitoring activities of the AFCs was increased to 5 percent, from P220,200 to P232,000 per year, starting this 2015, the PCAF’s maiden year of operations. The support for the RAFC Desk in all regions was also approved this year to help the AFCs in their consultation and capacity development activities. Through the workshop, the PCAF also facilitated shared understanding among the RAFC executive officers and coordinators on the agency’s mandates, mission, vision and functions.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

DA, PCAF conclude island-wide rice consultations; gear up for nat’l summit

The last leg of the island-wide rice consultations was held last January 26-27 in Cebu City. 
The consolidated output of the consultations will be presented during the National Rice Summit.
Rice stakeholders in Visayas discussed strategies towards a sustainable and competitive rice industry during the Visayas-wide Rice Consultation in Cebu City last January 26-27.

Discussions during the consultation focused on seeds and other inputs, labor and mechanization, postharvest, irrigation, marketing and value chain, organic rice farming, credit, guarantee and insurance, farming system and institutional arrangements and delivery system.

Among the recommendations given were subsidized irrigation fees and investment in Small Water Impounding Projects, address issues on watershed degradation, farm mechanization, promotion on the use of organic fertilizers, provision of seed banks to local government units (LGUs) and fertilizer to farmers, assigning a Technical Working Group or focal person per region that will assist farmer applicants in preparing the requirements for the Farm Mechanization Program and rent-to-own program for farm machineries.

Representatives from the concerned Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Offices, local government units, rice farmer-organizations, business sector, Agriculture and Fishery Councils and civil society organizations participated in the undertaking.

Preceding the Visayas-wide rice consultation are the Mindanao and Luzon legs of the undertaking which were held in Davao City and Quezon City December last year.

Organized by the DA and PCAF, the series of island-wide consultations aimed to gather inputs from rice stakeholders all over the country which will be consolidated for presentation and deliberation during the National Rice Summit.
The National Rice Summit aims to provide a venue among the key rice stakeholder to arrive at a consensus on a strategic framework for a competitive and sustainable rice industry by 2017.

It is an offshoot of PCAF Committee on Food Staples Resolution No. 8, series of 2014 which recommended the creation of a Convergence Task Force to ensure the sustainability and competitiveness of the Philippine rice industry.

YFFTPJ celebrates 30th anniversary, showcases milestones

The YFFTPJ Batch 2014 with their “otosan”, or foster fathers, during the YFFTPJ 30th Anniversary Celebration and National Convention
A counterpart program of the ASEAN Young Farm Leaders Training Program in Japan, the Young Filipino Farmers Training Program in Japan (YFFTPJ) featured its accomplishments and innovations for the past 30 years.

During the program’s 30th Anniversary Celebration and National Convention in Ciudad Christhia Resort in San Mateo, Rizal last March 4-6, around 80 program alumni convened to revitalize their commitments and responsibility as members of the Japan Agriculture Exchange Council Alumni Association of the Philippines (JAECAAP).

Themed “YFFTPJ @ 30: Its Contribution and Impact in Bringing Sustainable Agri-Development to Filipino Farmers,” the celebration also served as a venue to forge commitment from the members of the JAEECAP in the implementation of the YFFTPJ. New officers for the alumni association were also elected.

As Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) Deputy Executive Director Florabelle Uy-Yap spoke to the JAECAAP alumni during their meeting, she urged them to make use of their training not only for themselves but also for their families and the entire country. “Your training is not concluded with the science and skills of farming that you learned, more so, providing you perspective, the values of discipline and respect for the environment and quality of work that your host families instilled in you,” she emphasized.

PCAF former YFFTPJ Program Manager Soledad Bernardo also shared the history of the program, as it had been integral to National Agricultural and Fishery Council (NAFC), one of the precursor agencies of the PCAF, for 24 years.

Meanwhile, JAEC Chairperson Kyoshi Ishii thanked the Philippine government for the 30 years of partnership through the YFFTPJ. “We hope that the challenges they (Filipino young farmers) encountered during their training in Japan made them stronger and better,” he said in Japanese.

Also speaking in Japanese, former Agricultural Attache to Japan Joseph Sison encouraged the YFFTPJ graduates to organize a cooperative so that they can import agricultural machineries without paying taxes. “The Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of the Philippines provides tax-free importation of agricultural machineries. Let us take advantage of that law,” he said.

On the other hand, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Deputy Director Renato dela Cruz thanked the Japanese host farmers for equipping the young Filipino farmers with latest agricultural technology and management skills. He also wished that the Japanese host families will continue to extend their generosity to future young farmer trainees.

Selected YFFTPJ graduates also presented their farming innovations as well as the recognitions they received.

Alex Calucag and Jonathan Sony Domingo of Ilocos Norte, Flor Olivar of Camarines Norte, Alex Aborita of Leyte, Joel Ello of Zamboanga del Norte and Benjamin Maputi, Jr. of Bukidnon shared their respective success stories since graduating the program.
Expressing his appreciation on the undertaking, Narciso Repuyo, JAEC alumni, said, “I learned a lot from this gathering. I am thankful that the Department of Agriculture (DA) forged partnership with the Japanese government. The program has been helping a lot of out-of-school youth here in the Philippines.”

The YFFTPJ started in 1986 under ATI and was turned over to the NAFC in 1991. On September 25, 2014, the implementation of the program became a function of the ATI again.

Having managed the program for 24 years, PCAF staff who were part of the field validation and home stay evaluation participated in the said undertaking.

Batch 2014 of the program went back to the Philippines last February 28. They were given a post-evaluation in March to determine the relevance of the training and their responses on the different facets of the program.

Sectoral committee members aid DA in planning for 2016

Partners from the National Sectoral Committees (NSCs) offered ways to address the needs of more Filipino farmers and fisherfolk during the consultation held by the Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), on its 2016 draft plan and budget proposal last March 9, 2015 at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management Convention Hall in Diliman, Quezon City.

The consultation was conducted in line with DA Secretary Proceso Alcala’s instruction early this year to engage the PCAF’s NSCs in the planning and budgeting sessions of the Department to ensure efficient and effective spending in the implementation of its programs, projects and activities. It is also in consonance with the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) policy on participatory budgeting.

PCAF Exec. Dir. Ariel Cayanan explains the structure and functions of the agency as approved by the DBM.
In his message, PCAF Executive Director Ariel Cayanan underscored the importance of involving the private sector, through the NSCs, in the planning and budgeting process to tackle the needs and improve the lives of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk.

"In pursuit of attaining inclusive growth and poverty reduction, the government continues to espouse participatory planning and budgeting. This allows citizens and stakeholders to be part of making decisions and defining the nature and scope of government interventions. It is an honor for us at the PCAF to be a part of this effort as it is our mission to zealously promote and strengthen capacities in participatory and collaborative governance,” he said.
Aside from planning for 2016, the 2014 accomplishments and the approved 2015 plan and budget for the cross-cutting concerns and banner programs, as well as the PCAF’s structure and functions, were also presented to the estimated 100 participants.

Towards 2016  

Concerned DA units and agencies presented their respective 2016 draft budget proposals for cross-cutting concerns such as climate change, organic agriculture, farm-to-market roads and irrigation and banner programs such as fisheries, livestock, rice and corn and high value crops.

In line with these concerns, partners from the NSCs recommended various interventions that could help the sector perform more effectively.

Among the recommendations are incorporating farmers and fisherfolk database in the integrated multi-hazard risk management maps, providing credit facility for seaweed farming and providing support to organic farmers in the costly compliance to certification requirements.

They also sought for the formulation of local standards on organic farming, subsidizing irrigation fees of farmers and mainstreaming Gender and Development in DA programs and projects.

For the fisheries subsector, concerned private sector groups called for the DA to ensure poverty reduction through targeted livelihood interventions and enhanced resource management.

National Program Coordinator for Fisheries Asis Perez consults with private sector representatives
from the fisheries subsector on the program’s 2016 draft plan and budget proposal.
“Local species with economic importance and viability should be promoted and livelihood projects for the poorest of the poor fisherfolk should be prioritized to reduce poverty and achieve inclusive growth,” private and civil society organizations said.

Fishing industry players also drew attention to institutional capacity, recommending the repair and construction of not less than 72 provincial fisheries buildings near coastal areas and provision of at least one multi-purpose vehicle per coastal municipality. They also asked the DA to pioneer public and private partnership in missionary areas.

Meanwhile, private sector entities involved in the livestock, poultry and feed crops subsector called for a dialogue with the DBM on the decrease in the 2016 draft budget proposal for the DA Livestock Program.

They also sought for transparency in the composition of the plan and budget’s capital expenditure by preparing a detailed breakdown.

“The Bureau and Animal Industry should also upgrade and establish quarantine offices in light of the ASEAN Economic Community and enhance existing feed analysis,” livestock, poultry and feed crops industry players added.

Meanwhile, private sector partners from the food staples subsector called for increased budget for the DA Rice Program as well as the mechanization program. They proposed for the adoption of other schemes other than the 85:15 counterparting approach for farm production and postharvest machinery and equipment. Under this scheme, the DA shoulders up to 85% of the equipment cost, while the remaining 15% serves as the equity or local counterpart of the beneficiaries.

They also stressed that the 2016 budget for irrigation should be able to support other crop production and small-scale irrigation projects and called for funding for additional facilities and equipment for soil-testing.

“Labor displacement due to mechanization also contributes to the poverty of farmers and fishers. To help them, agricultural communities can be provided with light infrastructure, rural roads, water sanitation and electricity,” they added.

Groups concerned with high value crops also called for increased budget for the DA High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) so that more small farmers will be provided with the support they need. They also proposed for the inclusion of cash crops in the planting initiatives of the HVCDP since these can be the farmers’ source of income while waiting for major crops to mature.

PCAF-CIT passes 2 resolutions for local competitiveness

In an effort to boost the competitiveness of local commodities in light of trade liberalization, the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries-Committee on International Trade (PCAF-CIT) unanimously passed two resolutions during a meeting last January 28.

The PCAF-CIT Resolution No. 1, Series of 2015 requested the Department of Agriculture (DA) to designate a point person to coordinate and implement anti-smuggling plans and activities in order to reduce or stop smuggling of agricultural products in the country.

The committee also requested that the point person be provided with financial support corresponding to the activities of the Anti-Smuggling Task Force.

The Task Force was created by virtue of Executive Order (EO) 385, Series of 2004 in response to the unabated smuggling that continues to pose direct and serious threat to Filipino farmers as well as the Philippine economy.
To eradicate this threat, the EO includes a comprehensive approach involving the different departments and agencies of government.

In 2006, the Executive Department again issued EO 509 repealing EO 385, reconstituting the Task Force with the Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) as its head.

Strong cooperation among the DA, the Department of Trade and Industry and the private sector, and the check and balance mechanism in the BOC, led to a perceived decrease in smuggling activities in the country in recent years.
On the other hand, the committee’s Resolution No. 2 requested that the DA actively involve the Philippine Agricultural Attachés, who were also present during the committee meeting, in the formulation of the DA commodity roadmaps to arrive at more specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound goals and guides for the local farmers and stakeholders.

During the meeting, the committee recognized that the commodity roadmaps contain priority actions and measures that need to be developed towards the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community, such as the need to harmonize tariffs under the purview of ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry, food safety, and sanitary and phytosanitary-related concerns with the ASEAN member countries.

These roadmaps will be helpful in crafting the country’s strategies and priorities in its trade relations with other countries and regions under various multilateral and regional free trade agreements and other agreements, the committee stated in the resolution.

The PCAF-CIT is also requesting the Department to allocate supplemental funds to enable the attachés to promote agricultural and fishery products abroad, and collect and analyze market information on trade opportunities, problems and trends and relay them regularly to stakeholders in the country.

Philippine Agricultural Attachés are tasked to collect, analyze, and act on information on agriculture, agribusiness, food and other related spheres in a foreign country or countries. They also report on crop conditions, food availability, domestic agricultural policy and the foreign trade outlook of agricultural commodities.

Likewise, they negotiate food aid agreements and agricultural credit lines, implement agricultural technical assistance programs, facilitate professional contacts, exchanges, and technology transfer, assist in negotiating bilateral and multilateral trade agreements and promote the exports of agricultural and food products.

In many cases, they may also bear responsibility for issues related to the environment, food security, food safety, fisheries, forestry, and anything related to rural areas and the rural economy.

More than rich heritage and traditions

A small and serene community known for preserving its rich heritage, Sagada has made another milestone in countryside development.

The Municipal Agriculture and Fishery Council (MAFC) in the town was awarded as 2014 Gawad SakaOutstanding MAFC for its numerous contributions for the development of the agriculture sector.

One of its significant achievements is piloting the creation of Barangay Agricultural Extension Workers (BAEW) in barangay Balugan, through the initiative of Councilor Valentin Lam-Osen in 2012. “He wanted a group to assist the local government unit (LGU) in agriculture-related activities such as  vaccination of animals,” said Sagada MAFC Chairperson Esteban Solang.

“The BAEWs also conduct monitoring of Department of Agriculture (DA)-funded projects. The results of the monitoring and the status of those projects are reported to barangay officials and discussed with the MAFC members,” he added.

Another notable involvement of the council in the municipality is their support on the local clean and green campaign and zero waste management programs, as “it is the desire of the Sagada MAFC to protect the environment especially because Sagada is a tourist spot,” the MAFC chairperson explained.

Furthermore, the council has created linkages with the government and endorsed several resolutions and project proposals to concerned agencies to address the needs of the farmers in their community.

Upon the council’s request and coordination with the LGU, trainings and capacity-building activities were also conducted to enhance the skills of farmers and encourage them to undertake their own entrepreneurial activities. Currently, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Department of Trade and Industry and some private organizations are providing trainings and seminars for the farmers in the municipality.

The MAFC in this area also advocates organic farming through vermicomposting and the concoction of liquid fertilizers and pesticides. “We do not encounter challenges in marketing our organic products especially that the DA and the ATI assist us in promoting our products. We hope to produce more organically grown commodities that will prolong the lives of the consumers,” said Mr. Solang.

“We are able to attain our annual targets because of the unity and cooperation in the council,” the chairperson stressed during an interview.

“We make sure to consult technical experts and officials of concerned agencies to address the concerns of the framers,” Chairperson Solang said, adding that he hopes that partnership among government agencies and farmers organizations will continue.

They were also able to negotiate with the local government unit to improve the dispersal of livestock animals.
As for the MAFC chairperson, AFC is the mechanism in which issues in the barangays are reported to the DA and other concerned agencies.

“The best part of being in the AFC is that we are able to address the needs and concerns of the farmers which will eventually affect the community and the sector. It also serves as a venue for volunteerism as well as for learning and knowledge-sharing. We also gain friends through the council,” he shared.

“The MAFC chairperson is very active in championing the needs of the agri-fishery community. The members are also vigorous in joining our monitoring activities,” said MAFC Coordinator Escarlet Mayapit.

“We look forward to more recognition for Sagada MAFC,” the coordinator emphasized.

(With report from Adam Borja, DA Rice Program)

CAF calls out: ‘Juana, ikaw na!’

The Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) joined the celebration of the National Women’s Day last March 8, 2015 at the Quezon City Memorial Circle. The undertaking, which was led by the Philippine Commission on Women, served as a venue to celebrate achievements in empowering Juanas and encourage more women to step up, participate and lead in different sectors. . Following this, the Agricultural Training Institute conducted a Gender-Based Effectiveness Skills Training on March 16-20 in Ormoc, Leyte where Gender and Development Focal Point System member Arlyn Robrigado represented the PCAF.