July 9, 2021. The Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar issued the Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 12 S. 2021 on June 22, 2021 directing the establishment of a sustainable and effective system in managing threats of pests and diseases that pose risks to Philippine agriculture. DA recognized that despite the presence of existing protocols in managing these threats of pests and diseases, there is a need to update and systematize Biosafety, Security, and Surveillance (BSS&S) measures and upgrade disease surveillance for better management and quicker recovery.
The DA MC 12 s. 2021 titled, “Establishing a Sustainable and Effective Biosafety, -Security and - Surveillance (BSS&S) System in the Department of Agriculture and Adopting the Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M) as its Roadmap”, provides the organizational structure of the BSS&S System specifying functional linkages and responsibilities, and funding. The Circular states that a National Steering Committee will serve as the overall policy-making body for all DA programs, projects, and activities related to BSS&S. It shall be chaired by the Undersecretary for Regulations, and vice-chaired by the Assistant Secretary for Regulations.
The Memorandum Circular covers all the DA Regional Field Offices, and 18 DA Agencies and Operating Units, namely Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), Sugar Regulatory Agency (SRA), National Dairy Authority (NDA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering (BAFE), Information and Communications Technology Service (ICTS), Food Development Center (FDC), Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), National Tobacco Authority (NTA), Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), and the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS).
This Memorandum Circular mandates the adoption of the POA&M- a five-year plan envisioned to institutionalize biosecurity, safety and surveillance in the regular programs of the DA agencies and units. The POA&M document is one of the outputs of the completed three-year project titled “Enhancement of Biosafety and Biosecurity Capabilities at the DA Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories'' implemented from 2017 to 2020 in partnership with the United States Defense Threat Reduction Agency (US-DTRA). This document aims to sustain the gains of the BSS&S Project beyond the project period and scope, pursuant to the agreement reached in the PSC meeting of November 2019.
The preparation of the Memorandum Circular was initiated by BAFS and finalized through a series of high-level meetings and virtual discussions with the Office of the Policy and Planning (OPP), Project Development Service (PDS), Special Projects Coordination and Management Assistance Division (SPCMAD), Planning and Monitoring Service (PMS), BAI - Animal Disease Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory (BAI-ADDRL), BAI-Animal Health and Welfare Division (AHWD), BAI-National Veterinary Quarantine Services Division (NVQSD), ICTS, and BAFE.
Commenting on the completed 3-year BSS&S project that covered Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories of Regions 2, 3, 7, 10, 11 and 12, and BAI-ADDRL, the Undersecretary for Livestock William Medrano said, “I can really feel that there is already a culture of BSS&S in our laboratories. Our people are able to build awareness of the critical importance of having these laboratories, especially in dealing with transboundary animal diseases like ASF and AI”. ###