Representatives of conventional farming groups aired their sentiments and suggestions in support of natural farming in the country at a public consultation on consolidated pending organic agriculture bills in Congress held by the Department of Agriculture in Bacolod City yesterday.
Many of the participants, who came from organic-oriented organizations in the Visayas, chorused in suggesting that a law that institutionalizes a national program to push and support organic agriculture should be comprehensive enough to be inclusive of all sectors and foster its sustainable implementation.
Common views at the forum were for the inclusion of incentives for farmers and organic agriculture supporters, designing of educational curricula to promote natural farming, and a unified certification process in consonance with international standards.
Rep. Prospero Alcala (Quezon, 2nd District) said the initiative was part of a nationwide effort to get public consensus that will help shape the final versions of the bills pending for deliberation at the House of Representatives and the Senate.
While it is unusual for Congress to conduct public hearings for bills when technical working groups have already finished their reports, Alcala said lawmakers are taking exceptions with the organic farming bills due to the many requests from local government units for their constituents’ views to be heard.
Alcala, who has led his district in embracing organic farming since first becoming a congressman in 2004, said he cannot promise the forum attendees that all their views will be included in the final bill but he assured them that their ideas will be given consideration, especially at the bi-cameral floor deliberations of the law.
He said they are fast-tracking the refinement of the two bills and the approval of the final proposal of the Organic Agriculture Act of 2009 before Congress takes a break because many lawmakers will be likely absent later due to the upcoming elections.
A number of participants in the forum took an absolutist stand on organic farming, saying that non-traditional farming or that which uses genetically-modified organisms should be banned.
But Dr. Rodel Maghirang, an organic farming specialist from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños and a member of the forum’s panel of reactors, said that they do not want to push the idea that natural farming is the “only way” to cultivate crops.
Maghirang pointed out that the pending bills in the two chambers of Congress are aimed at obliging LGU’s to develop and implement programs that will promote organic agriculture so farmers will have a choice aside from the widespread use of synthetic farming methods and materials and not to stop the other farming programs of the DA.
Jerry Pacturan of the Philippine Development Assistance Programme and the forum’s moderator, said that while the participants were right in noting that the proposed organic agriculture law will contradict with the DA’s support of synthetic farming, it will be up to the agriculture department to resolve its stands and actions later.*PP