Saying more Filipinos should be able to afford healthy and safe organic products, Senator Cynthia Villar urged her colleagues in the Senate to pass the bill that will provide for a more affordable system of organic certification.

Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, sponsored Senate Bill No. 2203 under Committee Report No. 625, which amends Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010.

The Organic Agriculture Act requires the certification of organic farms of small farmers by a third-party certifier to facilitate labeling and marketing of products to markets.

However, farmers find the cost of third-party certification that range from P42,000 to 150,000 per crop, and valid for only one year, to be exorbitant.

“The high cost of certification creates a very big barrier for small farmers to overcome preventing them to participate, which ultimately hurts the growth and development of the organic movement,” the seasoned legislator said.

“The high cost of certification creates a very big barrier for small farmers to overcome preventing them to participate.”

The Nacionalista Party senator pushed for the institutionalization of Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) “to help small organic farmers attain the organic certification they badly need to compete in local and global markets.”

PGS, which will only cost farmers P600 to P2,000, refers to locally focused quality assurance systems developed and practiced by people who are actually engaged in organic agriculture.

It is used to certify producers and farmers as actual and active practitioners of organic agriculture, and is built on a foundation of trust, social network and knowledge exchange.

“Organic farming can be profitable, and organic food appeals to consumers as both a healthy and ethical choice. Beyond money and ethics, though, organic farming practices result in numerous environmental benefits,” the veteran lawmaker said.

 “Organic food appeals to consumers as both a healthy and ethical choice.” 

“Syempre gusto nating ma-avail at maa-afford ng small farmers ang certification. Without them who constitute a big chunk in our farming sector, organic farming will not really take off or further develop,” the lady senator added.

Her proposed bill also increases private sector participation in the National Organic Agricultural Board (NOAB), “as expertise in organic agriculture and understanding of the practical challenges of the organic law lies mostly with the private sector”.

In addition to the existing 14 members of NOAB, two representatives will be chosen from the national PGS, making NOAB a 16-member body.

The present composition of NOAB is as follows: a) Secretary of Agriculture as chairperson; b) Secretary of the Interior and Local Government as vice chair; c) Secretary of Science and Technology; d) Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources; e) Secretary of Education; f) Secretary of Agrarian Reform; g) Secretary of Trade and Industry; h) Secretary of Health; i) Three representatives from the small farmers; and j) A representative each from the NGOs involved in sustainable agriculture; agricultural colleges and universities; and private sector or agribusiness firms.

The bill also specifies that the representatives from small farmers and NGOs, and of agricultural colleges and universities must represent farmers’ organizations at least from the provincial level, actually and actively practicing, promoting organic and other sustainable agriculture practices.

It also requires that the three seats given to small farmers will be chosen from the livestock and crop sectors, and will have one and two seats respectively.

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