LABO, CAMARINES NORTE - The gathering of close to 700 organic agriculture producers, farmers, LGU organic agriculture program implementers and advocates from the academe in the two-day 10th Bicol Organic Congress on October 12-13 proves that Bicol region is one of the most active regions in advancing organic agriculture in the Philippines.

Rev. Fr. Ian Trillanes, member of the National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB) in his key note speech extended the sincerest gratitude of the NOAB to the Bicol region for aggressively implementing organic agriculture.

Nonetheless, Fr. Trillanes challenged the participants to promote organic agriculture to a bigger number of people. “ We need to change their mindset. Malayo pa ang ating tatahakin.” The congress theme “Pagsasakang Organiko: Kalusugan at Pag-unlad Sigurado” exemplifies what Organic Agriculture is all about - the way of the future which can address hunger and at the same time sustain health and environment preservation.

 Labo Mayor Joseph V. Ascutia said that it was the first huge gathering in the newly constructed Labo Convention Center built on top of a steep hill in barangay Bulhao.

The highlight of the congress was the awarding of the regional winners in various categories for this year’s Search for Outstanding Organic Agriculture Achievers Awards.

The province of Camarines Norte was awarded as regional outstanding province. Engr. Almirante Abad, Cam. Norte provincial agriculturist received the P500,000 worth project grant for the province. Mayor Patricia Alsua received the P300,000 worth project grant for Ligao City being outstanding city in organic agriculture. Felina Angeles of Sorsogon is outstanding organic agriculture provincial focal person. She received P25,000 cash prize; Engr. Dexter Mendoza is outstanding OA city focal person. He received P20,000 cash prize. Luisita Navo of Baao, Cam. Sur is outstanding OA agricultural extension worker. She received P15,000 cash prize. Elmer Salazar of Tigaon, Cam. Sur is outstanding OA individual farmer. He received P50,000 cash prize. Campita family of Goa, Cam. Sur is outstanding OA farming family. They also received P50,000 cash prize. The Guisican Multi-purpose Coop is Outstanding OA group category. They received P100,000 worth project grant. The winners also received a plaque of commendation.

Most Promising LGU is Iriga City. City Agriculturist Ruben Delos Santos received P150,000 project grant. Jonafel Taduran of Iriga City is most promising OA city focal person. She received P10,000 cash award. Edgar Oliva also of Iriga City is most promising OA extension worker. She received P8,000 cash prize.

A special citation was awarded to the Local Government Unit of Albay for successfully implementing the 5-year Albay Family Based Food Production Program advocating organic agriculture in 720 barangays in the province with 72,000 cooperators. The award was received by Provincial Agriculturist Cheryl Rebeta.

Various topics were discussed during the plenary sessions. Trends, Opportunities and Challenges in OA was discussed by Girlie Sarmiento, Project Coordinator of Organic Producer Trade Association (OPTA) of the Philippines; Certification: Opportunities, Practices and Challenges was discussed by Leilani Ramona K. Limpin, Executive Director of Organic Certification Center of the Philippines; Updates on OA Program was given by Ronald John Lamano of BAFS, NOAB Secretary. Elmer Salazar, organic farmer of Tigaon shared his best farm practices.

Adelina A. Losa, chief of Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division and Regional Focal Person for Organic Agriculture Program said they have invited a total of 26 organic producers to sell their products during the trade fair and have accumulated a total of P250,742.00 sales. (Lovella P. Guarin / photo credit: Jun Collantes/Mitoy Privaldos)