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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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A seminar workshop on the regulatory requirements of Philippines and Japan for mango and papaya exports was held last February 15-19.

Officials from Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) came to the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to conduct field survey of Mango and Papaya being exported to Japan. MHLW is a cabinet of Japanese government that provides regulations on maximum residue limits for agricultural chemicals in foods, basic food and drug regulations, standards for foods, food additives, etc.

The survey is in relation to the detection of a pesticide which exceeded the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) of Phenthoate from mangoes exported to Japan leading to the suspension of the two (2) of the biggest exporters, Sancorp Best Fruits Inc and Southern Philippines Fresh Fruits Inc. (SPFFC) in the country last year. And in August of the same year, Cypermethrin, was detected to have been used in papaya by PSC Diversified Fruits Inc. This pesticide is not allowed and registered for use in papaya. These had caused stricter inspection order, thereby causing delay and additional costs to our mango and papaya exporters in Japan. (Pwede bang huwag ng imention  ang mga companies)

After the BPI- Plant Product Safety Services Division (BPI-PPSSD) and BPI- National Plant Quarantine Services Division (BPI-NPQSD) submitted the result of investigation and the corrective measures, the MHLW decided to visit the Philippines to conduct a survey on the control condition of pesticide residue and confirm the effectiveness of the corrective measures done in the farms and in the facility to avoid recurrence of detection.

The inspection also aims to understand the country’s control system of hygiene management on agricultural and processed agricultural products as conducted by the BPI and growers/ exporters. And to finally make a recommendation on BPI’s request to ease the inspection order of mango and papaya exports.

Assistant Secretary for Planning and Project Development and concurrent Director – Bureau of Plant Industry Paz J. Benavidez II greeted and thanked MHLW’s representatives Ms. Yukiko Moriyama and Mr. Hiroshi Matsumoto and Mr. Kenji Terada, the First Secretary of Japan Embassy.(for what) Also present were the Division Chiefs of Plant Product and Safety Services Division, National Plant Quarantine Services Division and staff. Ms. Carmela Barradas of NPQSD presented the Department of Agriculture and BPI’s organizational chart for them to understand how people are managed in the regions or areas that export agricultural products to Japan. The presentations also include how the Bureau ensures hygiene and safety of exportable crops to Japan and anywhere in the world, implements control measures on food safety on mangoes, papayas and other produce like okra and how monitoring and inspection is conducted to ensure they are being implemented. Registration procedure for exporters, requirements for delisted exporters and BPI’s official stand on GMO were also discussed.

The 5-day activity also include visit in the Pesticide Analytical Laboratory (PAL) in Quezon City and Satellite Pesticide Analytical Laboratory (SPAL) in Davao to check the procedures on how pesticides are analyzed in the Philippines.  Inspection of farm and VHT Facility of Sancorp Best Fruits, Inc. was done. The VHT facility of PSC Diversified Fruits, Inc. (PSCDFI) and SPFFC was also visited.  Managed farms of SPFFC in Puan, Davao City and in Samal Island were inspected. The process of sampling of fruits for analysis, traceability and the VHT process flow were explained and discussed.

Inspection findings were presented in the exit meeting on February 19. Mr. Matsumoto and Ms. Moriyama were impressed on how motivated and informed the workers were and how they were taking necessary efforts and measures to strictly implement the regulations. They appreciated that the owners shared to farmers the information on chemicals to lower possibility of pesticide residue and eliminate risks of contamination. They recommended that protocols per crop must be renewed to adapt with Japan’s guidelines as some chemicals have been banned already. Farm owners must regularly update the lists of approved pesticides and guidelines on Japan’s MRL’s because it constantly change their regulations to minimize chances of violation. They also recommended a more frequent inspection to farms and facilities and suggested improvement of the laboratories where analyses are being conducted.

During the exit meeting OIC Assistant Director Dante V. Fidel assured MHLW that BPI will ensure export of safe and quality produce only. He appreciated their recommendations and guaranteed the team, that BPI in its capacity will response and help the farmers adhere to Japan’s standards. Ms. Esperenza Uy, PPSSD Assistant Division Chief, added that there will be more frequent inspection, accurate information drive on export manuals, MRL’s and protocols to avoid recurrence of detection. Findings and recommendations were all noted and BPI shall immediately secure the policy and implement them right away to lift the inspection order and ease restrictions being imposed to papaya and mango exports.

MHLW presented Japan’s Food Safety Monitoring System and Imported Food Monitoring System, also Japan’s procedures on dealing with pesticide violations. where representatives from the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS), Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) and exporters of mango, papaya and okra in Japan were invited. Several questions from the agencies and exporters were responded by the MHLW officials. (Contributors: L. Manalo and C.Barradas)




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