KABACAN, COTABATO – The Bicol delegation participated in the 17th National Organic Agriculture Congress held at the University of Southern Mindanao in this town in Soccsksargen region on March 21-24, 2023.

Fourteen delegates from Bicol composed of LGU provincial and municipal Organic Agriculture Program Coordinators, heads of farmers associations engaged in organic agriculture and individual organic agriculture practitioners joined the over 400 delegates and exhibitors from all over the country during the three-day congress.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. was represented by Undersecretary Joana Paula Domingo of the Office of Special Assistant to the President. He lauded the organic agriculture program as one of the most holistic solutions in addressing the challenges to both food security and sustainability and environmental conservation. “Rest assured that this administration especially now that I am also the concurrent secretary of the DA, will be at the forefront in addressing the pressing concerns of our agriculture sector,” Pres. Marcos said.

Senator Cynthia Villar, in a video message, also encouraged other farmers to follow organic practices to minimize the cost of production and increase yield.

The guest of honor – Jennifer Chang, Executive Director of IFOAM Asia – in her speech congratulated the NOAP and the organic practitioners. “So far you are doing a good job. And the IFOAM is monitoring how you are doing. The adaption of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) into the National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP) has created quite an impact in Asia. How the Philippines implement this program will be very useful in all other countries involved in organic agriculture,” Director Chang said.

Director Chang also challenged the Philippines to host the first PGS summit because “the Philippines is already in the organic map of the world, especially when it comes to PGS.”The opening day was made more colorful with the opening of the exhibits of various organic products from 60 exhibitors as well as high-value commodities of Region 12.

Bernadette F. San Juan, NOAP Director, together with Director Chang, awarded the PGS accreditation certificates from the DA-Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) to six accredited core PGS groups. These PGS groups are now authorized to provide organic certification services to their farmer members.

On the second day, the congress participants were divided for the plenary sessions where various research on organic agriculture revolving around the theme “Maunlad na Pagsasaka, Garantisado sa Organikong Agrikulturang Sinaliksik” were presented.

On the third day, the participants visited different organic farms in Cotabato. The Bicol delegation toured the 1,024 hectares area of the USM that houses various government offices including the Philippine Carabao Center and Agricultural Training Institute, Philippine Rubber Testing Center, as well as the mangosteen, durian, banana and rubber tree plantations. The Bicol group also visited cacao and wine processing facilities as well as the DOST-funded Tuklas Lunas research center which studies plants with potential anti-cancer activity.

Engr. Zamzamin L. Ampatuan, DA Undersecretary for Special Concerns and for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM); Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza; Dr. Sailila Abdula, DA RFO 12 Regional Executive Director; and USM President Francisco Gil N. Garcia also graced the event. (Lovella P. Guarin – DA RAFIS 5)