01 October 2015

APEC News Releases

Palace welcomes latest Pulse Asia survey showing President Aquino’s high ratings
Malacañang on Thursday welcomed the latest Pulse Asia survey results, which showed President Benigno S. Aquino III maintaining his high performance and trust ratings. Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. also thanked the public for the latest survey results, noting that the 54 percent performance and 49 percent trust ratings of the President are consistent with the June survey results.

“Nagpapasalamat kami sa aming mga Boss, ang mga mamamayang Pilipino, sa pagpapahayag ng kanilang patuloy na pagtitiwala sa pamumuno ni Pangulong Aquino,” Secretary Coloma said during a press briefing on the same day Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated released the results of the survey it conducted from September 8 to 14.

“Kapansin-pansin na ang kanyang ratings sa Pulse Asia survey ay pareho doon sa nakaraang survey ng Pulse Asia at ito ay maihahambing doon sa nakaraang survey ng Social Weather Stations na kung saan ay halos dalawa sa bawat tatlong Pilipino ay tumugon na sila ay nasisiyahan sa performance ng Aquino administration,” the Palace official further said.

The Pulse Asia survey last June saw President Aquino getting a performance rating of 54 percent and trust rating of 50 percent.

Coloma said the Aquino administration is determined to do more to uplift the lives of the Filipino people.

“Pagiibayuhin ang pagpupunyagi para makapaghatid ng pagbabago at pag-unlad sa kabuhayan ng mga Pilipino sa mga nalalabing buwan ng termino ng administrasyon,” he added.

While President Aquino kept his high ratings, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s numbers fell. According to the same Pulse Asia survey, the Vice President’s performance rating dipped to 43 percent in September from 58 percent in June, while his trust rating plunged to 39 percent last month from 57 percent in June.

When asked to comment on Binay’s ratings, the Palace official said the events that happened during the survey period must have affected the survey results.

“Kapag tinutunghayan natin ang mga survey na katulad ng sa Pulse Asia, palagi nilang binabanggit ang mga mahahalagang pangyayari na naganap doon sa period ng kanilang survey at ang pinakamahalagang pangyayari patungkol sa Pangalawang Pangulo ay ang kanyang pagtiwalag mula sa Gabinete,” explained Coloma.

“Kaya’t kung tutuusin ‘yung mga nakaraang survey na nagpapahayag ng opinyon hinggil sa kanyang performance ay patungkol sa kanyang performance bilang isang miyembro ng Gabinete na kung saan ay kasapi siya sa nakaraang limang taon at ito ang unang survey kung saan siya ay hindi na miyembro ng Gabinete, bagkus siya ay nag-deklara na siya ay lider ng oposisyon kaya’t makatwiran lamang na pansinin na sa ganyang pagbabago ng kanyang estado from Cabinet member to leader of the opposition ay nagkaroon ng ganyan ring pagbabago sa pagtutuos ng mga mamamayan ng kanyang performance o satisfaction rating,” Coloma added. PND (jm)

Philippines’ global competitiveness upgrade due to good governance: Palace
Malacañang has attributed the country’s current ranking in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report to good governance.

The WEF report for 2015-2016 saw the Philippines jump to 47th place from last year’s ranking of 52.

“Amid global uncertainties, the Philippines continues to go from strength to strength, most recently jumping five notches in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016. Our current rank of 47—compared to last year’s 52—further cements our reputation as a bright spot in Asia, an attractive destination for foreign investment, and a better place to do business for Filipinos,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

The Palace official said that comparing the 2010-2011 and 2015-2016 reports, improvements have been noted in all 12 pillars, most notably in innovation, institutions, and macroeconomic environment.

“Since the start of the Aquino administration, the Philippines has moved up a total of 38 places, from 85 in the 2010-2011 report to 47 in the latest one. This gain is the largest measured over that period, reflecting the extent to which Daang Matuwid has transformed the country,” Lacierda explained.

“Surveys such as this have proven it time and again: reform works, good governance works. The changes implemented under the Aquino administration have contributed toward increased transparency and efficiency, bolstering public trust and creating a more enabling environment for business. The effects are palpable, not only at a macroeconomic level but also in our citizens’ everyday lives, with continuous improvements in the delivery of social services. As the country prepares for next year’s referendum on Daang Matuwid, developments such as these continue to demonstrate the benefits of treading the straight and righteous path,” Lacierda added. PND (jm)

Education Secretary Luistro talks to President Aquino regarding Philippine history issue
Education Secretary Armin Luistro has assured President Benigno S. Aquino III that the lives of national heroes are taught in schools, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said on Thursday.

“Oo, nagkausap na sila,” Secretary Coloma said during a media briefing when asked if Secretary Luistro has spoken to President Aquino about the latter’s disappointment over reports that some students are not aware of Apolinario Mabini’s disability.

Actor Epy Quizon, who portrayed Mabini in the movie “Heneral Luna”, said some students have asked him why he was always sitting in his scenes.

Known as the brains of the Revolution, Mabini had contracted polio, which left his legs paralyzed in early 1896.

Coloma noted that Luistro sent him a text message, saying he assured President Aquino that local and national heroes are included in the Philippine history subject in the curriculum of the K to 12 basic education program.

“Essentially, I assured the President that Philippine history, including local and national heroes, is taught in Grades 4, 5 and 6 in the new K to 12 curriculum. We also have extracurricular activities that touch on the lives of prominent Filipinos. I believe the comments Mr. (Epy) Quizon received from three students are not reflective of the students’ level of awareness of our heroes,” Coloma quoted Luistro as saying in the text message that was sent on Thursday morning.

Coloma said Luistro would be talking to curriculum supervisors and teachers to check whether students are knowledgeable of the country’s heroes.

“In any case, I committed to discuss this concern with the curriculum supervisors and validate if majority of the students have similar deficiencies, and ensure we just do not simply dismiss the issue without fair assessment of the real situation,” Luistro added. PND (jm)

Government determined to improve traffic situation in Metro Manila, says Palace official
Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. on Thursday reiterated the government’s determination to improve the traffic situation in Metro Manila, which has been described as the “worst on earth”.

Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation application, recently released the first “Global Driver Satisfaction Index”, showing that on a city level, Metro Manila has the worst traffic.

” Ang responsibilidad natin ay pawiin ang ganitong klaseng impresyon at palitan ito ng mas magandang pagkilala. At patuloy naman natin itong ginagawa, at habang mas maraming dumadalaw sa ating bansa at nakikita ang tunay na sitwasyon ay napapabulaanan naman ang mga negatibong pagpansin na katulad ng nabanggit. Ang mahalaga ay ‘yung determinasyon natin na pabutihin ang sitwasyon at tukuyin ang mga suliranin at bigyan ng epektibong solusyon,” Secretary Coloma told reporters during a press briefing in Malacañang.

He said that aside from high fuel consumption, the traffic is also endangering the health of the public.

The Palace official also noted the transport roadmap, which the government is implementing with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

“Kaya nga po puspusang inaasikaso ng ating pamahalaan ang pagpapabilis ng daloy ng trapiko dahil kinikilala natin na malaking kabawasan ito sa ating pag-unlad ng ating ekonomiya. Nakakaapekto rin po sa kalusugan ng mga mamamayan, malaki rin ang nasasayang na salapi dahil sa increased fuel consumption. Kaya nga, sa pakikipagtulungan sa JICA ay meron nang ipinatutupad na transport roadmap. At habang inaasikaso ang mga immediate measures na nakikita na natin sa EDSA at sa iba pang mga major thoroughfares, patuloy din namang ipinapatupad ang iba pang mga long-term and medium-term programs na kasama doon sa transport roadmap,” Coloma explained.

The Waze study, which involves 50 million users in 32 countries and 167 cities, ranked Bandung in Indonesia as having the second worst traffic, followed by Guatemala.

Based on the study, the average commute in Manila can last up to 45.5 minutes, which is the longest compared to 18 other cities in the world. PND (jm)

President Aquino approves submission of initial global commitments to address climate change
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday approved the submission of the Philippines’ initial global commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In a statement, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the Philippines’ Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) “identifies the country’s climate change mitigation and adaptation actions that will be implemented beyond 2020”.

President Aquino is the chairperson of the National Climate Change Commission.

“According to Climate Change Commission Secretary Lucille Sering, under the country’s INDC, the Philippines committed to reduce its carbon emissions (CO2) by 70 percent by 2030, which will come from the energy, transport, waste, forestry and industry sectors,” Secretary Coloma said in the statement.

“These reductions in emissions are conditional and will be pursued if sufficient financial resources, technology development and transfer, and capacity building will be made available to the Philippines after the Paris climate talks in December,” he added.

The Philippines — a party to the Conference of Parties, an annual gathering of world leaders from 195 countries that aim to address climate change — submitted its initial INDC in preparation for the highly anticipated climate talks this coming December.

Submitted INDCs will be turned into a synthesis report by the UNFCCC and help determine if the world can pave the way towards a climate-resilient and climate-smart future.

“These initial commitments are anchored on our policy declaration under the Climate Change Law of 2009, as amended in 2012, that the State shall cooperate with the global community in the resolution of climate change issues,” Sering said in press statement issued by the National Climate Change Commission.

“Our INDC is based on our philosophy of undertaking mitigation as a function of adaptation, therefore, we will still prioritize adaptation measures,” she added.

The Philippines has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2030 relative to its business-as-usual scenario from 2000 to 2030. Reductions of CO2 emissions will come from the energy, transport, waste, forestry and industry sectors.

Sering said these reductions in emissions are conditional and will be pursued if sufficient financial resources, technology development and transfer, and capacity building will be made available to the Philippines after the Paris talks.

Such premise was a result of the multi-stakeholder consultation made by the Commission last October 24, attended by more than 100 representatives from government agencies, private sector, local experts and non-governmental organizations.

As a developing country, the Philippines reiterates the need for the enhancement of its adaptive capacity. It identified in the INDC priority measures to enhance its overall resilience.

These include institutional and system strengthening for downscaling climate change models, climate scenario-building, climate monitoring and observation; and rolling-out of science-based climate/disaster risk and vulnerability assessment process as the basis for mainstreaming climate and disaster risks reduction in development plans, programs and projects.

It also called for the development of climate and disaster-resilient ecosystems; enhancement of climate and disaster-resilience of key sectors – agriculture, water and health; systematic transition to a climate and disaster-resilient social and economic growth; and research and development on climate change, extremes and impacts for improved risk assessment and management.

Identified as the most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change, the Philippines’ INDC is greatly awaited in the international arena. It is poised to make an influential statement to both Annex I and non-Annex I parties during the negotiations.

“Since this is an initial submission, we are looking at updating our INDC as more data become available,” Sering said.

A total of 136 nations have already submitted their INDC to the UNFCCC. PND (jm)

Biotech crop production: An effective tool for combating poverty, says expert
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The cultivation of biotech crops or genetically modified crops (GM) could be an effective tool in fighting poverty in the country, an agriculture expert said on Wednesday.

Citing a 2011 study, Dr. Saturnina Halos, the chair of the Biotech Advisory Team of the Department of Agriculture, said the global net economic gain or the actual additional income gain from this activity is $116.6 billion for the last 17 years, or from 1996 to 2012.

This figure is equally shared by farmers from the developing as well as by those in developed countries, Halos said in a presentation during an APEC discussion on biotechnology and organic farming here.

As of 2014, of the 80 million farmers planting modern biotech crop, 91.7 percent or 16.5 million are previously resource poor, according to Halos.

The global average in the increase in crop yield is about 22 percent and the average farmers’ profit is about 68 percent.

Halos also reported that Biotech products are cheaper by 20 percent compared with their non-GM counterparts.

In the Philippines, where GM corn is the major crop of choice, the average yield advantage over ordinary hybrid corn is 19 percent. The income advantage in farming biotech corn compared with the ordinary hybrid corn is 8 percent.

By planting biotech corn, farmers could have a bigger return of investment, around 42 percent higher than cultivating ordinary hybrid corn, she said.

As of 2014, more than 400,000 Filipino farmers planted biotech corn, and most of them were resource poor, according to Halos.

A study in 2013 showed the spending patterns of Filipino corn farmers. Seventy eight point seven percent said they spent their income on their daily expenses, 60.9 percent put their money on their children’s education, 46.4 percent said they spent their income for home improvement, and 24 percent for farm capital.

Of those planting biotech corn, 3.7 percent bought vehicles and .5 percent spent their money for leisure and travel.

“If you really look at this, what it means is that those who can already send their children to the universities means they are already out of poverty,” Halos said.

The major APEC biotech producers are the US, 73 million hectares; Canada, 3.9 million hectares; Philippines, 800,000 hectares; Australia, 500,000 hectares; Mexico, 200,000; and Chile, less than .05 million hectares.

There are 90.15 million hectares in seven APEC economies being used for cultivation of GM crops or 50 percent of total global land area for biotech crops.

Vietnam and Indonesia are expected to join next year after they have approved and certified their respective biotech crops.

Eggplant, canola, cotton, maize, papaya, potato, squash, sweet pepper, tomato, rose and carnation are the major globally produced biotech crops.

Among the newly approved crops for commercializations are alfalfa, less browning Apple, virus-resistant beans, less browning potato, herbicide-tolerant soy beans and drought-tolerant sugarcane. PND (as)

APEC to produce concrete measures instead of roadmaps on agriculture, fisheries, says official
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Rather than merely coming up with a roadmap and declarations of intentions, the Department of Agriculture intends to produce concrete measures to address issues faced by the country’s agricultural sector.

According to Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, in the past Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, there have been a lot of “very nice declarations, very nice words”.

This time however, the Philippines will do a different thing by providing a concrete action plan that will become the benchmark of APEC economies in finding solutions to their agricultural and fisheries problems, Serrano said on Thursday.

The Philippines, he said, wants “joint and collaborative actions that are possible and feasible”.

“In short, what we want, what we should achieve in this segment of the APEC meetings is APEC economies doing something that they feel they share together,” Serrano said during a press briefing here.

Although there will naturally be declarations because it is the “diplomatic” way of doing things, these will be short and will refer to the plan of action, the agriculture official said.

He promised to be “action-oriented” because the department wants APEC economies to remember these meetings in Iloilo “as the benchmark with which they did something about all of those nice words that were stated in all of those nice declarations”.

One of the actions being undertaken by the department is to have a specific value chain analysis for all major commodity corridors in the country instead of simply basing its roadmap on a “national average”.

Serrano said that there are a lot of elements in the value chain that affect the price of a commodity, such as handling cost, land cost, and transportation cost.

A national average, he added, cannot specify the difficulties a commodity has to pass through from farm to market.

Transporting rice from Iloilo to Cebu would be priced differently than rice coming from Nueva Ecija to Manila, Serrano explained.

“If you consider reality, the formula for an average is the most deceptive indicator devised by man. What we want are real numbers, real commodity corridors, and real parts and elements in the value chain,” he said. (APEC Communications Group)

Biotech adds $200 million to annual income of corn farmers
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The Philippines is one of the successful models in the Asia Pacific for the application of biotechnology in crops, Chair of the Department of Agriculture’s Biotechnology Advisory Team, Saturnina C. Halos, said on Thursday.

Applying biotechnology on corn has improved the economic status of corn farmers, Halos said during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology Meeting here.

She noted that corn farmers using biotechnology have increased their income by US$200 million per year.

Biotech corn farmers have an 8-percent income advantage over hybrid corn farmers, while return on investments can go as much as 42 percent.

The improved income of biotech corn farmers was mainly due to a 19 percent increment in yields.

Halos stressed that utilizing biotechnology in the APEC region could thus alleviate poverty.

She further said that based on studies, 60.9 percent of Filipino biotech corn farmers spend their income on their children’s schooling, especially university-based education.

“It means, those who can already send their children to university are already out of poverty,” Halos said.

“If you apply that to the current number of farmers, (a) big number of (their) population are out from being resource-poor,” she added.

In 2014, more than 400,000 corn farmers used biotechnology in the Philippines, most of whom started out resource-poor.

On the other hand, 79 percent of local biotech corn farmers use their income for day-to-day expenses; 46 percent for home improvements; 23 percent for farm capital; 4 percent for buying a vehicle; and 0.5 percent for leisure.

The Philippines is one of seven APEC member economies that utilize agricultural biotechnology along with the United States, Canada, China, Chile, Australia, and Mexico.

About 800,000 hectares of land are allotted for biotechnology farming in the Philippines.

However, biotechnology in the country is currently applied to corn crops only.

The APEC region accounts for 90.15 million hectares of farmland or half of the total land area in the world used for biotech crops.

“There is a continuing growth for biotech crops,” said Halos.

She added that there is a sustained growth of 3 percent to 4 percent, or about 6.3 million hectares of farmland expansion, for agricultural biotechnology globally.

Aside from corn crops, biotechnology is applied to alfalfa, eggplant, canola, cotton, maize, papaya, poplar, potato, squash, soybean, sugar beet, sweet pepper, tomato, rose, carnation, apple, beans, and sugarcane. PNA (kc)

Harmonization of policies on biotechnology to facilitate agricultural trade in APEC
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have been urged to harmonize regulations on agricultural biotechnology to hasten trade in the region.

In a press briefing held on the sidelines of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology Meeting here on Thursday, Chair of the Department of Agriculture’s Biotechnology Advisory Team, Saturnina C. Halos, underscored the importance of aligning the APEC economies’ policies on agricultural biotechnology.

Halos said having common policies in agricultural biotechnology could result in the faster movement of agricultural products, as well as in the reduction of the trade costs of these commodities.

Agricultural biotechnology uses scientific tools and techniques in modifying agricultural products for the purpose of increasing yields, introducing nutritive value to crops, and making crops more resilient to weather and pests.

She cited that one regulation that needs to be aligned is that on the series of studies required before a biotech crop enters a particular market.

“It is difficult to trade with different regulations. If one market requires this study while another market does not require it, you will still need to undergo that particular study required in the former market, which means additional costs to the importer,” she said in Filipino.

“We need to hasten trade and reduce its costs,” she added, noting that one of the APEC’s goals is to push for open and free trade.

Halos cited that in the United States, about 80 percent of biotech corn crops are exported, while the Philippines is heavily importing biotech soybeans from the US.

Currently, only seven of the 21 APEC member economies are engaged in biotechnology farming — the Philippines, US, Canada, China, Chile, Australia, and Mexico.

Vietnam’s and Indonesia’s farming sectors are also adopting biotechnology, she said.

However, it was noted that the complex policies on trade of products applied with agricultural biotechnology, limit the trade flow of these products in the APEC region.

Halos noted that farmers who utilize biotech crops have increased their yields by 22 percent and their profits by 68 percent.

In a span of 16 years — from 1996 to 2012 — global net economic gains at the farm level reached US$116.6 billion with the use of agricultural biotechnology. PNA (kc)

American expert calls for more APEC discussions on biotech regulations
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) must initiate a more intense debate on how to harmonize regulations on animal biotechnology to have a freer trade of these products and at the same time ensure food safety, an American expert said here Thursday.

During a discussion on animal biotechnology and regulatory considerations, an issue was raised on the possibility of redefining genetically modified organism (GMO) products with the advent of new technologies in animal biotechnology.

There were also questions on the need to relax the regulatory process in the APEC region regarding the development and trade of products of animal biotechnology.

At present, two major technologies are used in animal research and development: gene editing and genetic engineering.

A biotech expert from the United States, Dr. Diane Wray-Cahen, said gene editing and genetic engineering are very different technical processes.

Wray-Cahen said that from the US standpoint, the question is what would be the end product produced by those technologies.

“In theory, one could obtain the same product with gene editing that you would also create with recombinant DNA technology,” she said during the discussion.

“We would suggest that one should focus on the product produced. I would not want to make a broad sweeping statement that would say the product of gene editing is categorically safer than the product from genetic engineering,” she said.

“Certainly, they are closer to what can be produced with natural breeding but it would depend on the product that is being produced and how that genome is being edited.”

So making a broad categorical decision based on the technology, rather than the actual product produced, is not the way to go, she said.

Different APEC economies should initiate and increase their conversations on how they wish to address these products of new technologies, she said, adding that this way, they can come to an agreement on what question is the most important in resolving this issue.

“Also, what are the potential risks that should be looked at so that we can have harmonization across our various economies, so that once these products are approved and entered in the marketplace there are no disruptions,” Wray-Cahen said.

“I hope that in the not too distant future, these products will make it to the marketplace,” she added.

Speaking about regulations, Wray-Cahen said regulations on animal biotechnology lag behind those on plant biotechnology.

In the US, authorities do not base the regulations on identifying something as GMO or not GMO, she said, noting that instead, they try to do it on a case-by-case basis, looking at the actual product before making determinations.

“And at the moment, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and other regulatory agencies based in the US are considering whether and how to regulate the products of this technology,” she pointed out.

“And we think that it is important to note that our office of science and technology has recently initiated agency effort to identify what some of these are and how the products of those technologies should be regulated,” Wray-Cahen said.

These mechanisms would be used to communicate decisions to the public, she said.

This is an ongoing process, she said, adding that at this point, she could not predict the timeline on when decisions would be made.

The agencies involved in the regulation are the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. PND (as)

Filipino experts counter negative perception of genetically modified organisms
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Filipino biotechnology experts have dispelled the negative perception of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the Philippines, saying these products are safe and can help secure the country’s food needs.

In a press briefing here on Thursday, Dr. Saturnina Halos, Chair of the Biotechnology Advisory Team of the Department of Agriculture, said two studies have been conducted in the Philippines to determine the people’s perception of GMO.

“There is actually a very positive perception (of GMO). In general, it is more positive (than negative),” Halos said about the study.

The negative view on GMO comes from a small group of articulate and well-paid individuals, who know how to get to the media and spread misinformation, she said, adding that the government has no aggressive campaign promoting GMO, hence the misconception about such products.

This small group also wants to create a picture of a doomsday scenario that is actually not supported by facts, said Dr. Ernelea Cao, director of the Institute of Biotechnology of the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

“The problem is, it is more perpetuated in the media because maybe people are influenced by what we see on television or what we see in the movies,” she said.

“And this is not (what) GM technology is all about. The organism is still the same — you just have a trait that has been added to it. So, it is not like the Frankenstein picture which is being depicted by certain groups and aimed to frighten the people.”

“And we are here helping because we want to give the right information to the public, to give the correct information to our people,” she added.

Delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings here held a forum on Wednesday, tackling the co-existence of GMO and organic farming.

Among the widely cultivated GMO crops in the Philippines are corn and eggplant. PND (as)

Amended law, higher fines, stricter enforcement bring double-dead meat cases down, says Agriculture official
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) An amended law, higher fines, and stricter enforcement have “radically” brought down the number of cases of double-dead meat, Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano said here Thursday.

Serrano did not cite figures but said the significant decrease of double-dead meat being smuggled and sold in the local market is a good development as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies are pushing for increased production of livestock in the region.

Hog traders have estimated at P8.5 billion the loss incurred by the industry from double-dead meat from July 2011 to February 2012.

“The decrease in number is really radical,” he said in an interview on the margins of APEC Food Security and the Blue Economy forum in Iloilo City. The forum is focused on reducing the rates of food production waste.

Double-dead meat can be identified by its pale color with a bluish or greenish gray tint; sticky consistency; foul smell; cold temperature (meat has been frozen); and hair and skin not properly cleaned.

Usually, double-dead meat products are butchered in a hurry before the meat hardens. Its price is also comparatively lower than fresh meat.

Following the passage of the amended law (Republic Act 10536, which updated the Meat Inspection Code of the Philippines) in May 2013, the penalties were raised from six years of imprisonment to 12 years, and from a P100,000 fine to P1 million.

“This makes trading in ‘botcha’ really not worth it,” Serrano stressed, referring to the popular name for double-dead meat, a type of food loss.

Several trainings were later conducted among national meat inspectors in the local government units, he said. Trainings are continuously being conducted in all provinces.

A researcher from Taiwan, Dr. Ching-Cheng “Emily” Chang, has said preliminary global assessment puts livestock waste at about 20 percent to 30 percent.

Serrano admitted that quantifying the loss of pork, beef, and chicken is challenging, as wastage occurs depending on the handling system.

Delegates to the APEC, including those from the Philippine Department of Agriculture, tried to identify the sources of livestock losses and wastage during the forum.

“That is what is good about the studies (brought up in the forum), even if it is not that exhaustive, at least we have (an) indication (of) estimated losses,” he added.

Member economies of the APEC have been urged to increase the production of livestock and at the same time, address the reasons for, and reduce, the losses or waste.

“We want to reduce the number of incidents of losses. What is the use of increasing the production if you will lose it anyway?” he said. (APEC Communications Group)

Local laws restricting expansion of agricultural biotechnology, expert says
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) Instead of promoting the application of biotechnology in the agriculture sector to ensure food security, local policies are restricting its growth, a biotechnology expert said on Thursday.

Biotechnology is crucial in ensuring food security in the Asia-Pacific region as it improves the productivity and resiliency of agricultural products, Chair of the Department of Agriculture’s Biotechnology Advisory Team, Saturnina Halos, said during a press briefing on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) High Level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology Meeting here.

For crops alone, she said, improved varieties of crops through biotechnology are able to withstand extreme weather conditions and are more resilient to pests, resulting in higher yields.

Halos however observed that ordinances being implemented in some local government units restrict farmers from applying biotechnology, particularly genetically modified organism-based (GMO) farming — the use of new combination of genetic materials or DNA in plants.

She said the growing restriction in using GM farming is mainly due to the misconception that GM farming is hazardous to human health.

She however noted that in the Philippines’ almost two decades of experience in growing genetically engineered corn, there has been no report of environmental or human health issues due to GM farming.

Corn is the only genetically engineered agricultural product that is commercialized in the Philippines.

Aside from GM farming, the co-existence of organic farming and GM farming is not widely adopted in the Philippines as well as in other APEC economies.

“There is no problem actually in growing different crops in the same area using genetically modified corn or organic produce. So I hope our people will understand this and that we allow, we tolerate the existence of different production systems in the same area,” Halos said.

“We do not need the ordinances that are being crafted right now, saying that, ‘We want only organic.’ ‘You GM corn producers should not exist.’ We should not. Our farmers are in different situations and they should be allowed — any farmer should be allowed — to produce the crop wherein he could make the most money and still preserve the environment,” the biotechnology expert added.

Noting the economic gains of GM corn compared to traditional varieties of corn, Halos cited that the yield per hectare of local corn called “tinigib” stood at 500 kilograms per hectare, while the open pollinated varieties of corn have a higher yield of 4,000 kilograms per hectare.

But the country was able to yield 17 metric tons per hectare by using GM corn, she said.

Halos stressed that food production in the Philippines, as well as in other APEC economies, should keep pace with the fast expansion of population.

Member economies of the APEC are in Iloilo City for the dialogue on food security and the Blue Economy, which runs until October 6.

The Philippines’ Department of Agriculture is chairing a number of meetings for the dialogue. PNA (kc)

Government crafts new high school curriculum to entice youth to take up agriculture
(ILOILO CITY, Iloilo) The government is developing a new curriculum for the Philippine Science High School that will encourage the youth to study agriculture, given the shrinking number of young people taking agricultural courses, an agriculture official said here Thursday.

Few young Filipinos are studying agriculture due to its small monetary compensation, Dr. Saturnina Halos, Chair of the Biotechnology Advisory Team of the Department of Agriculture (DA), told reporters during a press briefing.

The Philippine Science High School’s new curriculum, which will be for Grades 11 and 12, will incorporate agriculture in high school education.

“Our intent is for them to see that there is money in agriculture. And with the use of scientific practices, farmers can make profit,” Halos said.

The curriculum, to be implemented next year, will include Agriculture Science 1 on crop production and food processing, and Agriculture Science 2 on aquaculture and livestock production, she said.

Teachers will be trained, Halos said, adding that the Department of Agriculture will be asked to help implement the program, which could be carried out in other schools.

During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum on organic farming and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on Wednesday, Halos called attention to the need to increase the number of experts and scientists.

In the Philippines, more experts are needed to quickly develop more plant varieties to secure the country’s food requirements.

“So we in the DA, our biotech program, we have scholarships for young people who want to take (up) biotechnology. We also have scholarships for graduate students and fellowships for post-doctoral studies,” she said. “We have undergraduate studies with full scholarships.”

The University of the Philippines’ (UP) Philippine Genome Center, a system-wide center, is also an active academic hub that hones experts and scientists, said Dr. Ernelea Cao, Director of the university’s Institute of Biotechnology.

The center uses state-of-the-art equipment, Cao said, adding that there are new tools and techniques that experts can use to study genes in a much quicker way.

“This is also being done in other countries. But in the Philippines, we want to be at par with the developments abroad so that we don’t depend on the technology of other countries,” she said.

“As Filipino scientists, we should be developing our own technology to produce cheaper products (rather) than doing importation,” she said, noting that the biotech eggplant for instance was developed by scientists in UP Los Baños. PND (as)