Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gov't, stakeholders prepare for future of rice industry

Representatives from the private sector and concerned government agencies address concerns affecting the
competitiveness and sustainability of the Philippine rice industry.
Key rice industry stakeholders arrived at a consensus on the formulation of a unified strategic policy framework for the rice industry during the island-wide rice consultation held in Davao City last December 11-12 and in Quezon City last December 15-16, respectively.

Representatives from concerned Department of Agriculture Regional Field Offices (RFOs), local government units, rice farmer organizations, business sector including traders/millers, seed growers, and input suppliers, Regional and Provincial Agriculture and Fishery Councils (RAFCs/PAFCs), and civil society organizations engaged in rice industry development participated in the said events.

The area-wide consultations were undertaken by the DA, in collaboration with the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of the local rice industry especially in light of the termination of the quantitative restriction implemented by the Philippines on rice imports in June 2017.

The discussions were focused on the seven thematic areas identified as factors contributing to the competitiveness of the industry. These are seeds and other inputs, labor and mechanization and post-harvest, irrigation, marketing, credit, guarantee, and insurance, farming system, and organic farming.

Among their proposals for the development of the Philippine rice industry are the expansion of the coverage of the Sikat Saka credit program, review and update the design of the irrigation structure to consider potential impacts of climate change, additional training and orientation on the proper use and maintenance of farm machineries, provision of collapsible and other drying facilities to farmers cooperatives through the DA Post-Harvest Program, revival of the provision of the fertilizer subsidy through community-based organic composting, and increase seed production support to breeding institutions and seed growers.

In his closing message, PCAF Exec. Dir. Ariel Cayanan emphasized the importance of actively engaging the farmers and other stakeholders all over the country in the development of policies to reform the rice industry.

“This consultation has indeed served as a venue for the convergence of different groups from both public and private sectors,” Dir. Cayanan added.

Subsequent to the Mindanao and Luzon-wide rice consultations, the Visayas leg of the undertaking will be held early next year, followed by the national rice summit which will be the culminating event and where the DA and the PCAF hope to secure the commitments of all parties to the unified strategic framework for a competitive and sustainable rice industry by 2017.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Southeast Asian countries agree on need to raise awareness on marine conservation at 1st regional seminar

Government representatives from various Southeast Asian Nations and resource speakers from leading international organizations for the conservation and management of biodiversity convene for informed discussions on the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ. (Photo courtesy of Greenpeace Philippines)
Officials from agriculture and fisheries agencies of different Southeast Asian governments agreed that keeping the public informed and raising awareness in their respective countries on issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) is vital in keeping the oceans healthy for a sustainable future.

Such was among the ideas shared and discussed by government representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam during the first ever Regional Seminar on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine BBNJ through a New Implementing Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on December 11 and 12, 2014.

The event was hosted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), in collaboration with Greenpeace Southeast Asia and The Pew Charitable Trusts, at the Century Park Hotel, Manila.

Adding new verve to the campaign to protect marine biodiversity, the said regional seminar was seen to successfully strengthen the capacity of Southeast Asian nations in the negotiations for a new international agreement on marine BBNJ under the UNCLOS.

A number of UN States are looking forward to negotiations for a new international agreement which could facilitate the development of modern conservation and management tools. This follows the agreements reached at the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or “Rio +20”) where Heads of States and Governments committed “to address, on an urgent basis, the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the UNCLOS” before the end of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2015.

Prior to this, in 2011, the UNGA endorsed the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group (BBNJ Working Group) to “convene a process to ensure that the legal framework under UNCLOS effectively addresses the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ, including through the implementation of existing instruments and the possible development of a multilateral agreement (or implementing agreement).”

This process will address the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ as a “package” of elements, namely, area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; marine genetic resources, including questions related to the sharing of benefits; environmental impact assessments; capacity-building; and, transfer of technology, which were all covered during the first Southeast Asian regional seminar.

The Southeast Asian delegates and the resource speakers from the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, High Seas Alliance and UN University, who flew in to Manila for the two-day event, commended the PCAF, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and The Pew Charitable Trusts for their efforts to provide a venue for learning and sharing of information and knowledge on the scientific and governance aspects of the conservation and management of marine biodiversity.

Officials from local government agencies and universities such as the Department of Foreign Affairs Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office (DFA-MOAO), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Biodiversity Management Bureau, PCAF, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department, and University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute also served as resource persons and facilitators during the seminar.

Also among the participants were from local government agencies and non-government organizations such as the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), Philippine Coast Guard, DENR Environment Management Bureau, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement and Alliance of Philippine Federations, Inc.

The time is now

Sen. Loren Legarda stresses the urgency of protecting marine resources through a more holistic, multisectoral and sustainable approach.
Addressing the more than 50 participants of the event, keynote speaker Senator Loren Legarda conveyed a strong message of support to the ongoing efforts on the development of an UNCLOS agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ.

“As different nations living in one planet, we need to unite towards the protection of our high seas and the responsible use of marine resources…. We need marine life to support human life. We must act now and work together to find the much-needed balance in using the resources of our oceans and protecting its biodiversity,” she said.

Sen. Legarda also had a discussion with the group on possible areas for further collaboration for increased protection of marine biodiversity where she ultimately committed to spearhead consultative meetings with relevant government agencies and representatives of various Asian governments through the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

Senator Sonny Angara, who was represented by Atty. Voltaire Veneracion, likewise expressed his message of solidarity for the advocacy to protect biodiversity in the high seas and looked forward to ways in which his office can help, especially as he believes that oceans are essential to food security in the country and the livelihood and employment of the 1.4 million Filipino fisherfolk.

Marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) represent around half of the Earth’s surface and a significant amount of its biodiversity. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that about 80% of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, over exploited or significantly depleted and, according to the World Bank, an estimated $50 billion worth of economic benefits are lost annually due to overfishing.

A 2011 report of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations states that it was around 15 years ago that the international community became aware of the threats to these areas and started to discuss the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ.

The need for an implementing agreement has been the focus of the discussions of the BBNJ Working Group in the past years to address two distinct areas which are the applicability of the “common heritage of mankind” principle to marine genetic resources on the deep seabed and the protection of marine biodiversity in high seas from destructive practices and over-exploitation.

The deep seabed and high seas are two distinct areas of oceans beyond national jurisdiction. The former is governed by the “common heritage of mankind” principle which means that its resources are to be shared by all of humanity. However, the drafters of the UNCLOS only focused on mineral resources, therefore, raising the question on what legal regime is applicable to marine genetic resources which are important to the pharmaceutical industry.

With the success that the 1st regional seminar on marine BBNJ has achieved, the PCAF and Greenpeace Southeast Asia look forward to other future collaborations for the protection of the oceans. Shown in photo are members of the event’s secretariat from the two organizations
On the other hand, the high seas are governed by the "freedom of the seas" principle which means that "the high seas are open to all states, whether coastal or land-locked.” This distinction is of a concern to developing States, given that developed States have the technological capabilities to explore the ocean’s resources.

The PCAF is part of the Philippine delegation in the UN informal consultative process on the conservation and sustainable use of marine BBNJ and is also a member of the working group created by the DFA for the development of the Philippine position.