Sec. William Dar listens with the concerns of the NBPC and OPPC Chairperson during the RTD. Also present in the discussion was PCAF OIC Executive Director Liza Battad,

A Round Table Discussion (RTD) with Agriculture Secretary William Dar and the National Banner Program Committees (NBPCs) and Other Priority Program Committees (OPPCs) Chairpersons was held on May 11, 2022. 

The meeting was held in response to the NBPCs and OPPCs’ request for a deeper discussion with the Secretary during the last National Agriculture and Fisheries Volunteers’ Day and to discuss urgent matters of the sector.

“We recognize all your engagements from the private sector and civil society organizations (CSOs), at kailangan na kailangan po ang partnership ninyo with the Department of Agriculture (DA),” Secretary Dar said while emphasizing the importance of partnerships and consultative processes.

Chairperson Hazel Tanchuling of NBPC on Rice recommended an area development approach for agriculture and the need to increase production of healthier and culturally-appropriate food for Filipinos. 

Suggestions regarding the rice roadmap were also discussed and Sec. Dar assured the private sector that the rice roadmap would always be open for improvements, calling it a “living document”. Chairperson Tanchuling also discussed the importance of promoting conventionally-bred healthier rice varieties, and advocated for more support and inclusivity for women in agriculture, which would improve overall productivity.

Developments in the trial vaccination for the African Swine Fever and swine repopulation efforts were also discussed for the NBPC on Poultry, Livestock and Corn, chaired by Dr. Arnulfo Frontuna. Sec. Dar reassured the private sector saying that “ang laban natin sa ASF ay tuluy-tuloy”, with enhanced surveillance and monitoring and the distribution of 19,258 piglets to 7,828 beneficiaries. 

The DA is also committed to revitalizing agricultural laboratories, opening more composting facilities, and is now working on a pilot project looking into swine manure as organic fertilizer.

For the rubber industry, NBPC on High Value Crops (HVC)-Rubber Chairperson Alfonso Jack Sandique discussed the need for the industry to adapt and innovate as they face their challenges as a “sunset industry”. 

The market potential of fibers as export, the development of cross-breeding protocols for more resistant fiber crops, and improving mechanization for the fiber industry were discussed by NBPC on HVC- Fiber Crops Chairperson Michael Edward Claparols.

More research laboratories for major fruit exports, including banana and pineapple, and the creation of more cold storage and processing facilities were recommended by NBCP on HVC- Fruits and Vegetables Vice Chairperson Ramon Marañon, representing Chairperson Dr. Mary Ann Sayoc. 

On NBPC on HVC-Coffee and Cacao, Chairperson David Santos also suggested giving farmers in upland areas more access to fertilizers, the designation of a focal person for each commodity, and the continued training of agri-extension workers for coffee and cacao.

On the other hand, NBPC on Fisheries and Aquaculture Chairperson Dinna Umengan, suggested developments for the tuna industry and discussed the importance of the vessel monitoring system against illegal and unreported fishing. DA’s construction of more community fish landing centers, which are now more than 700, was also discussed. 

OPPC on Climate Change, Environment, and Natural Resource Chairperson Marita Rodriguez also suggested increasing protective measures and vulnerability assessments for coastal communities, citing that increasing resilience in these climate change vulnerable areas would ultimately increase production. Sec. Dar then mentioned that climate change is indeed an urgent threat to agriculture, and it is important to strengthen adaptation and mitigation measures.

While NBPC on Coconut Chairperson Charles Avila highlighted coconut as our country’s natural competitive advantage and that there is a massive profit potential through coconut farm modernization and rural industrialization. Sec. Dar then reiterated DA’s commitment to precision and digital agriculture and the continued research and development of hybrid coconuts. The DA has also recently distributed 43M seedlings to more than 250,000 beneficiaries.

The policy recommendations and potential projects in cooperation with DA brought forward by the NBPC and OPPC chairpersons will be consolidated and endorsed to the DA Secretary and concerned agencies for appropriate action.

Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) OIC Executive Director Dr. Liza Battad then opened up the possibility of quarterly round table discussions towards a more consultative cooperation between DA, the private sector, and CSO partners. 

Secretary Dar also presented the Duterte administration’s “Plant, Plant, Plant” legacy and its significant impact in improving various commodity industries. The inclusion of the Commodity Industry Roadmaps (CIRs) in the department’s transition plan was also highlighted. | SMA