QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), in cooperation with the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA), organized the 1st National Project Steering Committee (NPSC) Meeting of the Philippine component of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-funded project Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns (ATMI-ASEAN) on 3 August 2018 here. The meeting served as a venue for the newly-formed committee to learn more about the project, and discuss national-level activities, primarily the conduct of the policy study on processed pork meat products.
The NPSC is chaired by DA Assistant Secretary for Planning and Project Development and Special Projects, Mr. Lerey A. Panes. In his Welcome Remarks, Asec. Panes explained that Filipino farmers are faced with the challenge of increasing competition in the bigger market, having to go head-to-head with multi-national market players. He sees the NPSC meeting as an opportunity to explore areas that will promote alternative sources of income for smallholder farmers. He continued by mentioning DA's involvement in previously held regional- and national-level activities of ATMI-ASEAN such as the Regional Launch Workshop, National Inception Workshop, and Training-Workshop on Rapid Value Chain Assessment. He likewise provided a brief introduction to the proposed policy study on processed pork in the Philippines and encouraged the NPSC members and invitees to provide their inputs to further improve the proposal.
Ms. Aniq Fadhillah, ATMI-ASEAN Policy Facilitator, attended the meeting and delivered her message on behalf of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), lead implementer of the ATMI-ASEAN Project. Ms. Fadhillah said that in the effort to strengthen ASEAN's role and contribution to the global economy, "sustaining momentum of global economic recovery requires stable performance supported by a broader set of economic sectors and agents as growth drivers." She emphasized the importance of discussion on value chain competitiveness in moving toward the establishment of a common market and to achieve a competitive ASEAN Economic Community.
Dr. Bessie M. Burgos, Program Head for Research and Development of SEARCA, started her message with a brief background about the Center, and how SEARCA's engagement in the ATMI-ASEAN Project is aligned with its 10th Five-Year Plan's theme Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development or ISARD. Dr. Burgos said, "agriculture still plays an important role in the Philippine economy, especially in relation to the twin goals of food security and poverty alleviation" and that with the ASEAN Economic Integration, the sector needs to improve its competitiveness in a way that is inclusive and sustainable. The ATMI-ASEAN Project aims to support the ASEAN Member States (AMS), farmers' organizations, and other stakeholders through evidence-based policies and technical assistance.
Mr. Jimmy B. Williams, ATMI-ASEAN Project Support Unit (PSU) Coordinator, outlined the national-level project deliverables, while ATMI-ASEAN Project Associate Ms. Bernice Anne C. Darvin discussed the composition and functions of the Philippine NPSC.
One of the major activities of the project in the Philippines is the policy study on "Value Chain Analysis of Selected Pork-based Processed Products in Luzon, Philippines," which will employ the Rapid Value Chain Assessment methodology and will be conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) through a project team to be led by Mr. Cenon D. Elca, Assistant Professor of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics (DAAE), College of Economics and Management (CEM) of UPLB. In his presentation, Mr. Elca provided an overview of the swine industry in the Philippines, followed by a run through of the plan of study.
After the presentation on the proposed study, the NPSC engaged in an open forum where they were able to share their comments and suggestions, as well as raise some questions in relation to the policy study to be implemented.
Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) mentioned that the Department is currently looking into policy gaps in relation to the swine sector. She explained the importance of ground-level research or surveys to determine the root cause of the problems in the industry. She also suggested for the Philippine research team to build an inventory of existing laws and regulations pertaining to the swine industry. Usec. Maglaya explained that by doing so, inconsistencies that could potentially become stumbling blocks or obstacles in enhancing the sector could be identified and addressed. Analyzing existing legislation across the country will enable targeting the most important policy issues and decide what would be a good policy environment to address. She also emphasized that, at the end of the day, the focus of this project is to help smallholder farmers, and in the case of the Philippines, backyard hog raisers, to achieve growth that is sustainable and environment-friendly. Moreover, Usec. Maglaya recognizes the huge potential of the swine sector for trade. Currently, the challenge for the sector is strengthening its competitiveness in the international market. A good first step would then be to focus on the enabling policies.
Before the meeting closes, Mr. Williams shared with the NPSC SEARCA's planned learning events that aim to support the research teams in writing their policy papers/briefs. He also asked the committee members to cite any specific capacity-building activities that they think would benefit policymakers and other project stakeholders. The next NPSC meeting is targeted to happen in the 2nd quarter of 2019, tentatively at SEARCA Headquarters.
To close the program, Asec. Panes stressed the importance of the ATMI-ASEAN project, especially the planned policy study, in helping the country's smallholders and even the cooperatives. He thanked the NPSC members for their invaluable inputs and contributions toward the successful implementation of this undertaking.
The Philippine NPSC is currently composed of representatives from the DA, specifically the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Project Development and Special Projects, the DA-International Affairs Division, and DA-Policy Research Service; Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI); Agricultural Training Institute (ATI); Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF); UPLB; Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), a member of the Asian Farmers' Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA); Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA); Grow Asia and its national platform Philippine Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA). Mr. Grahame Dixie, Executive Director of Grow Asia, Mr. Ferdinand V. Buenviaje, Coordinator of the Medium-Term Cooperation Program Phase 2 (MTCP2), Mr. Anton Simmon Palo, General Manager of the Foodlink Advocacy Cooperative also attended as guests.
Ms. Carmen Nyhria G. Rogel, Program Specialist of RDD, and Ms. Loise Ann M. Carandang, ATMI-ASEAN Project Assistant, also joined the SEARCA project team.