The first Philippine Good Agricultural Practices (PhilGAP) caravan, a gathering of owners of farms in Bicol that are already compliant to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) was a huge success.

A total of 105 participants from various farmers associations, Local Government Units and individual farmers from Camarines Sur and Albay attended the 1-day event held at Lanuza Hall, CBES building DA compound on May 14, 2024.

The PhilGAP is a set of standards enshrined in Republic Act No. 10611, commonly known as the Food Safety Act of 2013. These regulations aim to strengthen the country’s food safety regulatory system and ensure consumer health protection.

The Regulatory Division of the Department of Agriculture is tasked with the enforcement of these food safety regulations outlined in the Philippine National Standards on Good Agricultural Practices.

The provisions outlined in this legislation aim to prevent and reduce risks related to food safety, environmental impact, worker health and safety, and product quality. Compliance with these practices by farmers is expected to boost the trade and competitiveness of agricultural products in the country while also safeguarding consumers against food safety hazards.

Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Director Gerald Glen F. Panganiban was the keynote speaker. His message was read by Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez, OIC-RTD for Operations. Panganiban said that “Agriculture in the Philippines is not mere industry; it constitutes the lifeblood of our nation, nourishing our populace, propelling our economy, and enriching our heritage. It is incumbent upon us (DA) to guarantee the superior quality and safety of farm products for consumption.”

Farmer Regional Executive Director Bernadette B. de los Santos, the first farmer in Bicol to have been given a PhilGAP certification for her farm some years ago also graced the occasion. According to her the major objective of then Agriculture secretary Alcala at that time of the certification of her farm La Huerta De Rosario in Baao, Camarines Sur was to be competitive with the ASEAN market because other countries also have Good Agricultural Practices Certification. “Seeing you all here present attending this PhilGAP caravan. Nakakatuwa po kasi ibig sabihin marami na tayong nagprapractice ng PhilGAP means of farming,” delos Santos enthused.

One of the highlights of the caravan was the exhibit of some products of these GAP certified farms. A documentary of some prominent GAP certified farms in the region produced by the Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Information Section (RAFIS) was also shown. Some of the farms featured in the documentary were: Juning Abo Farm in Macalidong, Ligao City, Albay; Crave Cacao farm in Bigaas, Calabanga, Camarines Sur; Mikeliz Integrated Farm; Umali Dragon Fruit Farm in Upper Ragay, Camarines Sur; Yungib Integrated Farm of Banga Elementary School in Ragay and Simeon Tycancgo Memorial High School GPP Integrated Farm also in Ragay, Camarines Sur; and Albay Provincial Organic Vegetable Experiment Station (APOVES) in Buang, Tabaco City.

Rosita Imperial, Regulatory Division Chief encouraged farm owner to apply for PhilGAP certification. “GAP Certification promotes the production of a lot more of quality Agricultural products, enhance access to markets, and ensure safe food in the table of every Filipino,” she added.

Mikko Facturan and Renz Kenneth Asor of the Bureau of Plant Industry discussed the features of PhilGAP, its importance to food safety and the benefits that the farmers will get from being certified.

Joseph A. Viernesto, Jr. of Dizon Farm discussed the market opportunities of products and Renel N. Leste, president of Millennial Vegetable Growers Association shared his experiences being a PhilGAP certified farmer.

During the caravan, 20 newly certified farms mostly rice farms in Albay that were certified in collaboration with PhilRice Bicol, also received PhilGAP Certification and RiceBis 2.0 Project from PhilRice.

At present Bicol Region has a total of 127 PhilGAP accredited farms devoted to rice, vegetables, white corn, cassava, mango, pineapple, and dragon fruit. These farms are spread throughout the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Masbate and Sorsogon.

Also present were Lorenzo L. Alvina,, Caretaker of the office of the RTD for Research and Regulations; Maria Emily T. Galgal, Farmer Division Chief for Regulatory. (L.Guarin and VEPasumbal | Photo credit: Ramon Adversario, Jr.)