Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Philippine SC Reverses GMO Ruling

The Philippines Supreme Court has reversed its decision to halt field trials of GMO talong, also known as brinjal and eggplant.

The July 26 decision allows the government to resume the process of deregulating Bt talong — eggplant genetically engineered to resist the fruit and shoot borer, the most destructive eggplant insect pest throughout Asia.

The ruling follows an appeal by farmers, scientists and other agriculture advocates, who successfully asked the high court to reconsider its December 2015 ruling permanently stopping Bt talong field trials.

The high court initially upheld the Appellate court ruling, but today granted the motion for reconsideration and reversed its decision. It found that the case should have been dismissed for mootness since the field trials had already been completed and the associated biosafety permits had expired, according to a press briefing released by the court.

“These effectively negated the need for the reliefs sought by respondents as there was no longer any field test to stop,” the briefing stated. “Hence at the time the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision dated May 17, 2013, the reliefs respondents sought and which were granted by the CA were no longer capable of execution.”

“The Court explained that it is not empowered to decide moot questions or abstract propositions, or to declare principles or riles of law which cannot affect the result as to the thing in issue in the case before it,” the briefing stated. “An action is considered moot when it no longer presents a justiciable controversy because the issues have become academic or when the subject matter has been resolved.”

The Court further found that it should not have acted on the Constitutionality of the  Department of Agriculture’s Administrative Order No. 08, which authorized the field trials, “as this matter was only collaterally raised.”

Bt brinjal has been engineered to express a protein from Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium widely used for pest control in organic farming.  Bt brinjal is currently being grown only in Bangladesh, where farmers report reduced pesticide use, better yields, excellent consumer response and higher profits.

Its introduction to the Philippines has been fought by Greenpeace. In May 2012, the international activist group  successfully petitioned the  Court of Appeals to halt the field trials, which are conducted in a controlled, isolated setting to show the crop can be grown safely and successfully in local conditions.

Results from trials over three seasons in the Philippines demonstrated that Bt brinjal provides outstanding control of the fruit and shoot borer and eliminates the need for additional sprays. Studies have also confirmed Bt eggplant is safe for the environment and humans.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Free Irrigation Instructed by Pres. Duterte

Rice self-sufficiency has been the aim of every national administration since the founding of the Republic. But several factors militated against achieving the goal. These are:

1.    Decreasing land for rice planting due to land conversion
2.    Increasing population that outstrips rice production
3.    Geography

In terms of geography, the limited and decreasing land available for rice cultivation and planting is further exacerbated by the lack of natural irrigation.

Unlike Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos that benefits from the natural irrigation brought by the Mekong River Delta System, the Philippines does not have such a river system notwithstanding that it is an archipelago.

The countries mentioned above have three planting seasons because of the Mekong River Delta System. The Philippines, in order to have 2 planting relies heavily on man-made irrigation systems that the farmers pay for. This irrigation system is administered and maintained by the National Irrigation Authority (NIA). This further adds to the so called “farm inputs” that also raises the cost of production, making Philippine rice uncompetitive in the market and also cuts into the income of the farmers, thus making them economically disadvantaged.

The campaign promise of President Duterte to provide for free irrigation to rice farmers is one of the cornerstones of his agricultural program. The president has ordered the Department of Agriculture (DA) to initiate the provision of free irrigation according to Secretary Emmanuel Piñol of the DA. The marching order was given to the Secretary of the DA during the last Cabinet meeting.

“It’s a commitment to the farmers that we have to fulfill,” Piñol quoted President Duterte.

In order that free irrigation be institutionalized, it has to have a law behind it so as shield it from political decisions in the future.

The DA Secretary proceeded to get the support of Congress and the Senate for such a policy driven law. Support was given by Representatives Edcel Lagman and Joey Salceda and lawmakers from Leyte, Samar and from Central Mindanao.

He said as soon as he received “that clear directive,” he immediately talked with lawmakers and sought their support for a measure that would mandate free irrigation to poor farmers.

The Senate also supports the proposed law and support was acquired from Sen. Frank Drilon and Sen. Loren Legarda

The free irrigation bill in the senate will be filed by Sen. Cynthia Villar, the chairman of the senate Agriculture Committee. Support is also expected from senators Koko Pimentel, Francis Pangilinan, Manny Pacquiao and Alan Cayetano.

There are two ways that the free irrigation bill can be funded.

1.    Additional funding of Php4 billion to the NIA so that farmers no longer need top pay for irrigation.
2.    Amendment of the NIA charter so as to be it under the DA and no longer an independent Government Owned and Controlled Corporation.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Itik Pinas to boost the balut industry through increased duck egg production

Itik Pinas to boost the balut industry through increased duck egg production

Written by Alfredo Ryenel M. Parungao, DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Service

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) has partnered with the National Swine and Poultry Research and Development Center-Bureau of Animal Industry (NSPRDC-BAI) to develop the Itik Pinas, which can produce 50 more eggs than the traditional Pateros duck.

Itik Pinas is a genetically superior breeder duck which has a higher average productive period of 70% in a year, compared with 55% for the old breed. This translates to an increase in egg production of at least 50 quality eggs per duck per year or an additional income of at least ₱300 per duck per year. Moreover, Itik Pinas produces eggs at an average of 65 grams a piece, consistent with the requirement of the ‘balut’ industry.

Itik Pinas can adapt to local environment conditions and can perform well even with simple housing and low-cost feeds.

The strains of Itik Pinas are products of organized breeding and selection that focuses on the uniformity of physical characteristics, higher and predictable egg production performance, and consistent egg quality.

Itik Pinas is an output of DOST-PCAARRD’s Duck Industry Strategic S&T Program (ISP), which aims to develop science-based interventions for increased egg and egg weight. Moreover, the program addresses the decline in number and quality of breeders as well as the lack of stable supply of ready-to-lay pullets, among other challenges.

DOST-PCAARRD will launch Itik Pinas during its fifth anniversary that will be held on July 28, 2016. The Council will also feature this commodity, along with its leading R&D initiatives in the agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources (AANR) sectors during the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) on July 25-29 at the Council’s complex. This year’s NSTW adopts the theme, Juan Science, One Nation.

The Council’s anniversary will also highlight the National Symposium on Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Research and Development (NSAARRD) in the morning of July 27, 2016 and awarding of papers in the afternoon on the said date. The NSAARRD showcases the most outstanding contributions of individuals and institutions in improving the state of the AANR sectors through research and development.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016



By: Secretary Manny Piñol
Department of Agriculture

In a move which could tremendously boost the country's food production and agricultural programs, an estimated 30,000 farm technicians and extension workers will soon "rejoin" their former "mother unit" - the Department of Agriculture (DA).

This is expected to happen very soon after Dept. of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno, himself a former governor and real farmer, agreed to my proposal to enter into a tri-partite Memorandum of Agreement with the DA and the Local Government Units (LGU) to re-assign the thousands of farm technicians and extension workers now under the LGUs back to the agriculture department as "detailed" workers.

Actually, these technicians and extension workers were originally DA employees assigned to the provinces and municipalities who were "devolved" to the LGUs upon the passage of the Local Government Code.

While the intent of the Code was noble, their transfer to the LGUs effectively paralyzed the DA and caused a great disconnect in the implementation of the department's agriculture and fisheries programs because the technicians and extension workers were getting orders from the mayors and governors.

Also, the LGUs do not have enough funds to ensure that the technicians and extension workers would be able to perform their tasks.

So, what eventually happened was that many of these agriculture workers stayed in their offices wearing crisp and dandy office uniforms, some of the women even wearing make-up and high-heels, instead of going to the fields.

Some of them are assigned to do odd jobs like tax collectors, market supervisors and even security officers, jobs totally unrelated to agriculture.

It is simply an untenable situation where talents and skills are wasted.

I presented the idea of the "detail" of the agriculture workers back to the DA during my consultations in Bicol, Samar, Leyte and SOCKSARGEN region and the proposal was roundly accepted by the LGU executives.

With this development now, the DA will shoulder the allowances, per diems and trainings of the agriculture workers and they will receive directives and orders from the DA regional offices.
The DA could even give them back the privileges of having bicycles, motorcyles or even 4-wheeled vehicles so they could do their job effectively.

Upon the signing of the MOA, the agriculture and fisheries sector will effectively have an additional workforce of about 30,000.

Expect the farms and the coastal areas to be bustling with movement of agriculture and fisheries technicians in the days to come.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Urban Agriculture: P75 Million allocated by Department of Agriculture

Urban Migration is a reality here in this country. Although according to NSO Statistics, 60% of the 100 million Philippine population still resides in classified “rural” areas, this does not mean that they are not subject to urbanization.

In a span of 20 years, seemingly rural areas have become “urbanized”. Also, known lands once classified as agricultural has been converted into residential and even commercial use.

The effect of the success experienced by rural citizens in education their children who in turn never returned to do agricultural work but instead went into other urban based livelihoods and jobs is adding population pressure in urban centers in the country.

The effects are the following:

1.    Increase of urban population and migration
2.    Shift in livelihood from rural (agriculture) based to urban based (Services and Manufacturing)
3.    Migration abroad (OFW)
4.    Decrease in available land for agriculture  and thereby decrease in agricultural and food production.

Noting the increase of urban population and the decreasing food production, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has embarked on a program to augment food production using the urban areas.

Using Israeli Agritech methods and demonstrated in areas in Davao, the DA has allocated Php75 million this year in  starting urban gardening programs.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol calls the project Vegetable Gardens in the City. This will be done in partnerships with the local government units (LGUs) and urban poor families will be the participants.

The project will be initially implemented in Taguig, Manila and Quezon City. The DA will provide technical, financial and marketing support. The Israely mode of Greenhouse farming will be utilized. Such greenhouse technology has been a mainstay in Israel and has been successful in boosting the yield of crops and is even based in the Negev Desert.


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