December 17, 2020. As the core of the Sustainable Development Goals, the right to development encourages every country in the world to participate to a constant improvement on its social, cultural, and political process. One of the measurements to ensure that a country is developing is through standards establishment. Standards serve as a platform wherein people and organizations develop a mutual understanding that will facilitate quality, safety, and market trade of products. As defined by ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004, a standard is a document established by consensus, and approved by a recognized body, that provides for common and repeated use, rules and guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context. In the Philippines, the development of standards specifically the Philippine National Standards is facilitated by the government.
The creation of the Philippine National Standards is based on Chapter 1 Article 5 of the Republic Act No. 7394 of 1997 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines that specifies the duty of the State to develop and provide safety and quality standards for consumer products. However, the importance of standards cannot be enclosed only by RA 7394. From 1997 to the present, the development of standards evolved as the constitution progressed. Several mandates were crafted to aid the standardization in the country as shown in Figure 2.
RA 7394 was further substantiated with the development of Republic Act No. 8435 of 1997 also known as the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997 which paved way for the creation of the Bureau of Agriculture and Fishery Product Standards (BAFPS). The agency is mandated to set standards for fresh, primary- and secondary- processed agricultural and fishery products (Chapter 7 Section 61). With the effectivity of RA 8435, a total of 7 PNS under the category of Crops was accomplished in 2003. BAFPS also crafted its first PNS for the specification of green coffee beans (PNS/BAFPS 01:2003).
In 2010, the RA 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2020 strengthened the mandates of BAFPS in developing standards for organic agriculture which is a type of farming that do not use chemical fertilizer, pesticide and pharmaceuticals in order to preserve the organic integrity of the products. To date, BAFPS has already developed 7 PNS for organic agriculture that covers farming practices, aquaculture, soil amendments, feeds, and bio-control agents.
A pinnacle on the need of standards was documented in 2013 when two (2) laws were passed: RA 10601 or the Agriculture and Fisheries and Mechanization Act (AFMech) and RA 10611 or the Food Safety Act (FSA). The AFMech Law empowered the Bureau to develop standards specifications and test procedures of agricultural and fishery machinery and equipment. This Act also renamed BAFPS to the ‘Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS)’. In collaboration with relevant stakeholders from the government, academe, research institution, private sector and non-government organizations, the Bureau has developed 64 PNS for agriculture and fishery production machinery, post-harvest machinery and infrastructure. FSA, on the other hand, mandated BAFS to establish food safety standards for fresh plant, animal, fisheries and aquaculture foods. The Act also emphasized that science-based mechanism and transparency shall be used in developing food safety standards. With the law enacted, the Bureau has established 134 PNS with the objective to ensure food safety in agriculture and fishery products.
Inclusivity is one of the good standardization principles being followed by the Bureau. The creation of the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act of 2018 delineated BAFS to develop standards for Halal primary and postharvest foods. Further, the law highlighted the need to harmonize the national standard with international standards to ensure uniform good practices and strengthen global competitiveness of the Philippine Halal products. A total of 5 PNS have been developed by the Bureau for Halal agriculture and fishery products.
Through the years, the abovementioned laws steered BAFS to develop PNS through a systematic and transparent stakeholder engagement process. The accomplishments of BAFS from 2003 to present are presented in Figure 3.
The initial year wherein the Bureau has started developing standards was in 2003. It was also this year where the Bureau has accomplished the lowest number of 7 developed PNS. However, this accomplishment can be understood since the operational procedures and personnel capacity in developing standards were in its premature stage. The standardization work continued until it reached its peak in 2017 when the Bureau developed 45 PNS mainly to support the agriculture and fishery mechanization (21 PNS developed) and food safety of agriculture and fishery products (19 PNS). The accomplishment of 24 PNS was reported in 2020 after it was approved by the DA Secretary.
The accomplishment of the Bureau can also be categorized by its objective: quality or food safety. Both objectives are important to ensure trade of the agriculture and fishery products in the local and international market. The PNS developed by BAFS per objective is shown in Figure 4.
The development of food safety PNS started in 2004. The highest number of food safety PNS developed is 24 PNS recorded in 2015 which is 2 years after the FSA was enacted. In different circumstances, the quality PNS developed by DA-BAFS started in 2003 and has a recorded peak in 2018 with 30 PNS developed. The pinnacle can be majorly attributed to the development of quality PNS for agriculture and fishery mechanization.
Since standards development cater different for agriculture and fishery sectors, the PNS developed by BAFS can still be broken down into the following categories presented in Figure 5.
Majority of the developed PNS by DA-BAFS is for the crop sector with 49.8% of the 307 PNS established. This value can be attributed to the PNS developed for food (e.g. fruits and vegetables) and non-food (e.g. fiber, ornamentals) sector. The development of AFMech standards follows next with 20.8% that can be categorized further to production machinery, post-harvest machinery, and infrastructure. Organic agriculture standards have the least share of 2.3% in the BAFS developed PNS. However, this percentage already encompassed the organic agriculture needs for production of crops, livestock and poultry, fishery and aquaculture, soil amendments and bio-control agents.
Even with the accomplishments of DA-BAFS, the work to progress the agriculture and fishery sector through standards development is far from over. The five (5) laws enacted by the state shall be the guidance of the Bureau to develop science-based, inclusive, transparent, and stakeholder-engaged standards. These standards shall contribute to the objective of the Philippines to achieve quality, safety and globally competitive agriculture and fishery products.