Villar wants Pinoys to have access to healthy, safe products

Cynthia Villar

SENATOR Cynthia Villar has pushed for a system of organic products certification which small farmers can also afford, saying more Filipinos should have access to healthy and safe farm products.

In defending the Committee Report amending Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, the Committee on Agriculture and Food said "farmers find the cost of third party certification with the tag price ranging from P42,000 to P150,000 per crop, valid for only one year to be exorbitant." 

"This amount is way beyond the purse of small farmers who have the perennial problem to access even a small capital for production. Only rich farmers or corporations can afford third party certification. The provision has become a deterrent and a disincentive for small farmers comprising a large percentage of the farming population," Villar said.

Villar authored Senate Bill 1911 which proposes the establishment of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) as an alternative to third-party certification.

PGS, which will only cost farmers P600 to P2000, is built on trust and integrity of farmers and consumers who conduct the certification process themselves through adherence to certification standards, guidelines, regulation and processes, similarly observed by third party certification.

Villar also noted that PGS is now widely adhered to and accepted by international organic movements, such as the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement. It is also recognized by the Food and Agricultural Organization as a pro-small farmer alternative to third party certification.

"Aside from environmental protection, increased farmer profitability is also a great motivation to promote and develop the organic industry. It promotes the use of natural and farm-based resources and inputs like organic fertilizer, which would yield to less input cost on the part of the farmers," Villar said.

"PGS encourages farmers to be organic and to charge them more than hundred thousand is quite contradictory. There's a secondary advantage. It encourages farmers to organize cooperativism, aggregation of lands and farmers," Villar added.

Under the bill, a core of 5 composed of producers, marketers, consumers, teachers, or traders of organic crops and/or livestock; or a Local government Unit practicing PGS or an Associations, Organizations; or a Coop advocating PGS and their farmers shall go to the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) to get a certification. Once compliant, they can have the organic seal on their product.

The BAFS shall coordinate with the Bureau of Plant Industry and the Bureau of Animal Industry in setting up the organic standards in their sectors while the Agricultural Training Institute shall roll out training programs in accordance with BAFS good agricultural practices principles in the farm schools nationwide. The Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Service Division shall develop a marketing agenda for organic produce by promotion thru market info system, activities and the establisment of organic trading posts.

The National Organic Coordinating Office at the Office of the DA Secretary shall assist the National Organic Agriculture Board and shall be the Secretariat of the Organic Program.