MANILA Saying more Filipinos should have access to healthy and safe farm products, Senator Cynthia Villar has pushed for a system of organic products certification which small farmers can also afford.
During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food on bills amending Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, Villar said "farmers find the cost of third party certification with the tag price ranging from PHP42,000 to PHP150,000 per crop, valid for only one year to be exorbitant."
"This amount is way beyond the purse of small farmers who have perennial problem to access for even a small capital for production. Only rich farmers or corporations can afford third party certification. The provision has become a deterrent and disincentive for small farmers comprising a large percentage of the farming population," Villar said in a news release on Wednesday.
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 costs farmers PHP600 to PHP2,000, 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 added 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.
"Of course, we want our small farmers to avail and afford the certification. Without them, organic farming will not really take off or further develop," she added.
Government officials and organic practitioners who attended the hearing also expressed their support to PGS as a certification system.
"We support the PGS because to say that we encourage 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 which I think, is key to raising productivity, not only of organic farms but all farms including rice farm, for example, which is the issue hot issue today," said Jose Gabriel Lavina, alternate chair for the National Organic Agriculture Board.
Among the resource persons were Indira Bagatsing (Kahariam Realty and Farms, Inc.), Henry James Sison (All Seasons Nature farms), Ian Basa Cabriga (Teofely Nature Farms), Mara Pardo de Tavera (Mara's Origanal Market), Girlie Sarmiento (Organic Producers and Trade Association), Carmen Cabling (PGS Pilipinas), and Cris Panerio (MASIPAG). (Senate PR)
Source: Philippine News Agency