PASAY CITY – The Special Task Force for the Development of ASEAN Standard for Organic Agriculture (TF-ASOA) was convened for the back-to-back workshops aimed at developing Explanatory Notes for the ASOA and the equivalence assessment of national standards against ASOA, held last 2-4 March 2015 at Midas Hotel, Pasay City. The importance of developing the ASOA explanatory notes is to establish common understanding among the ASEAN Member States (AMS) and to explain its requirements, which will serve as a guide for the competent authorities in assessing equivalence with other AMS. Likewise, the equivalence assessment will be the venue for the alignment of the national standards to the ASOA, in aid for the establishment or harmonization efforts of the AMS for their national standards to achieve equivalence.

The two (2) workshops are in line with the implementation of the Strategic Approach No. 2 under Strategic Plan of Action of the TF-ASOA, which was also approved by the 36th ASEAN Ministers for Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) in September of 2014. A proposed 2nd workshop will be conducted soonest, to fine-tune the explanatory notes before it is finalized during the Meeting of the TF-ASOA. The special workshop on the self-assessment is conducted in preparation for the implementation of the Strategic Approach No. 4 of the Strategic Plan of Action on the alignment of the national standards against ASOA.

For the Philippines, these workshops are essential in our efforts toward the implementation of the Philippine National Standard, which was revised just last year to be aligned with the ASOA. The explanatory notes for the ASOA is likewise important to us, since this will be the basis for the registration of organic food and input producers/establishments (which encompasses our monitoring, inspection and post-market surveillance regulatory activities) and certification of our organic farms.

The activity was attended by delegates from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam and Viet Nam representatives were unable to attend the activity due to unavoidable circumstances.

 

Figure 1. From top-left, clockwise: Dr. Rodel G. Maghirang (PHL), Ms. Zara dela Paz (PHL), Ms. Joeve S. Calleja (PHL), Ms. Ennatha Sri Haryani (IDN), Mr. Teo Shuan Hao (SGP), Ms. Monthida Sisomphou (LAO), Mr. Sengsouly Kommameaung (LAO), Mr. Ong Kung Wai (MYS), Mr. Agus Kardinan (IDN), Mr. Ramon Marañon (PHL), Mr. Santiago Palizada (PHL), Ms. Monticha Boonumpol (THA), Ms. Chutima Sornsumrarn (THA), Ms. Grace Docuyanan (PHL), Mr. Roberto Gasparillo, Jr. (PHL), Mr. Gardjita Budi (IDN), Mr. Banthao Chanpoom (THA), Ms. MAN Sotheavy (KHM), Ms. Oratai Silapanapaporn (THA), Ms. Karen Kristine Roscom (PHL), Ms. Seah Peik Ching (SGP), Ms. Phonethip Sommany (LAO), Ms. Siti Saudah Hassim (MYS), Ms. Lara Navarro (PHL), and Ms. Leilani Ramona Limpin (PHL)

Being well attended, the activity was able to accomplish the two (2) major agenda at hand. The workshops were able to produce initial pointers for the development of explanatory notes and have adopted an equivalence matrix to be used in the assessment of equivalence of the national standard against ASOA. Partially, the individual AMS conducted self-assessments and was peer reviewed. In using the equivalence matrix, the AMSs doing the peer review or assessment will have an overall picture of the alignment status without necessitating the conduct of the actual review. All the exercises done by the individual AMS were just preliminary and will be preface for the 2nd workshop.

 

Tentatively, the follow-up workshop will be held in Bali, Indonesia on the 3rd week of April 2015.