Davao farmers push gov’t institutionalization of guarantee system for organic products

DAVAO CITY — Farmers and other agricultural sector stakeholders are pushing the national government to institutionalize the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of certification for organic products by amending Republic Act (RA) No. 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.

Section 17 of RA 10068 provides that only products with third party certification is allowed to be labelled as organically produced.

“We are pushing for the recognition of the PGS system for organic products considering that it is a lot cheaper than the third party system and thus more feasible for our small farmers,” said Carmen L. Cabling, PGS Pilipinas president.

While the PGS certification system costs no more than P2,000, Ms. Cabling said, the third party system costs as much as P40,000 per year.

Third party certification is an independent review system that confirms and verifies a claim that a product has complied with the standards set for organic products.

The name of the third party which made the verification is stamped on the product’s label or packaging.

‘MASIPAG’ SYSTEM

Ms. Cabling pointed out that while the Philippine law only recognized the third party system, there is one existing PGS in the Philippines — the MASIPAG Farmers’ Guarantee System — that is accepted and recognized by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Family of Standards, which is accepted globally.

Established in 1972, IFOAM is the only international umbrella organization of the organic industry, according to its Web site.

The IFOAM Action Network comprises self-organized IFOAM regional and sector groups and daughter organizations. To date, IFOAM represents close to 800 affiliates in 117 countries all over the world.

The 25-year old MASIPAG Farmers’ Guarantee System is an umbrella organization of people’s organizations, nongovernment organizations and scientists.

These groups and individuals are known for their pioneering work in the country’s organic agriculture movement.

The Department of Agriculture (DA), through Administrative Order No. 08 Series of 2013, has given organic farmers up to April 1, 2016, to voluntarily comply with the Third Party Certification requirement for organic products in the Philippines.

The group has also brought their position before the National Organic Agriculture Board.

However, it was told by DA Underecretary Bernadette R. Puyat that while the government recognizes the importance of the PGS, it could not officially recognize the system as valid until the law is amended.

The proposed amendment to the law has been submitted by Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Teodoro “Teddy” A. Casiño.

“But you know how difficult it is to amend the law here in the Philippines especially now that there are other more important things for the lawmakers to attend to,” said Dr. Chito P. Medina, MASIPAG National Coordinator, during a national conference on PGS held in the city last week.

LOCAL LEVEL

In the meantime, MASIPAG has taken another route for PGS recognition in the country at the local government level. The latest local government unit (LGU) to have adopted the PGS as a certification for organic products is Davao City, which officially launched the Davao City PGS last week.

“We have adopted the PGS as the certification system of Davao City organic products because we believe this will better serve our local and small-scale farmers,” Davao City Agriculture Officer Rocelio Tabay told BusinessWorld.

Mr. Tabay said the city government is now setting up a group tasked to evaluate and certify under the PGS.

“But Davao City is still a beginner when it comes to PGS so what we do now is identify group or groups in the community to guarantee that the products are organic,” Mr. Tabay said.

Organic products from Davao City and neighboring municipalities include different varieties of rice, fruits and vegetables, and herbal teas and medicines. — Carmencita A. Carillo

 

Source: BusinessWorld Online