A consultative meeting and training on Philippine Good Agricultural Practices (PhilGAP) certification program were held last February 29 to March 4, 2016 at the City State Tower, Ermita, Manila.  It was attended by Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) GAP Team and Secretariat, BPI Center’s and Division Chiefs, representatives from Department of Agriculture (DA) implementing agencies and national programs, consultants and members of the GAP Technical Working Group.  Assistant Secretary for Planning and Project Development, OIC Director Paz J. Benavidez II welcomed the participants.

Under the Food and Safety Act of 2013 (R.A.10611), the Bureau of Plant Industry is the DA regulatory agency for plant foods. In compliance thereof, the PhilGap certification program is transferred to BPI from BAFS starting 2016. PhilGAP was framed in response to issues concerning high quality and safety of food and non-food agricultural crops, trade requirements to neighboring ASEAN and other foreign markets, environmental sustainability and health and welfare of the people. It also implements food safety regulation in terms of licensing, registration of farm or establishment and inspection thereof.

The first day was a review and consultation on the Administrative Order No.10 Series 2013 – Guidelines on Certification of GAP for Crops. Amendment of the guidelines is being done to facilitate the transfer of the certification services from BAFS to BPI while ensuring smooth and continuous delivery of service.

Mr. Santiago Palizada, Chief, Special Project Unit, Crop Research and Production Support Division (CRPSD) discussed the rationale of the training on PhilGap certification and the PNS on Code of Practices for Mango. Dr. Edralina Serrano Retired Prof from UPLB & TWG Member discussed issues on food safety and PNS on Code of Practices for Corn and its checklist. Another member of the TWG and consultant, Dr. Santiago Obien discussed Code of Practices for Rice. Sampling protocols were discussed for heavy metal, microbial, pesticide residue analyses and exportable fruits and vegetables like banana, pineapple, mango, okra and asparagus.  Discussions were facilitated by technical experts from different divisions. It was emphasized that the sampling procedures are based on the bilateral agreement between the importing and exporting countries and/or in accordance with PNS. BPI Quality Management System Procedure on GAP Certification was also presented and discussed.

Equipped with knowledge about the procedure, guidelines and protocols, the team conducted a mock inspection in E.V. Sanchez Farm in Jala-Jala, Rizal. It is GAP certified farm for its dragon fruit produce. Participants were able to interview the farmers and owner and observe the actual operation of the farm.  Process flow was followed and inspectors exercised keen observation to ensure smooth inspection.  Checklists and inspection reports were presented for discussion on the last day of the training.

After the 5 day-training, participants were able to come up with recommendations on how to implement GAP Certification and improve the current standards and protocols.  GAP inspectors must not only be knowledgeable but also psychologically and physically fit to endure the challenges during the inspection. To establish inspectors’ credibility and carry out authority, proper uniform and ID’s must be provided. Policy should be developed to encourage small farmers to apply for a GAP Certification to ensure safer and quality food for their family and the community.  

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