January 11, 2021. The long wait is over for our organic agriculture stakeholders!
Republic Act (RA) No. 11511, the Act amending the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 (RA 10068), is finally signed and approved by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on December 23, 2020, and will take effect on January 21, 2021. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 11511 is not far away as the NOAP-NPCO, BAFS and other partner agencies are actively collaborating to put in details the IRR.
The main highlight of the new Act is the recognition of Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) as an alternative to third-party certification, with BAFS as the lead agency in the accreditation and provision of technical assistance to PGS Groups.
Further in the purview of regulations, the amended law ratifies the restructuring, strengthening and empowerment of the BAFS to include additional functions on the accreditation of PGS groups, ruling on appeals of farm owners on decisions made by organic certifying bodies (OCBs), training of PGS groups, and coordination with different agencies and local government units. RA 11511 further clarifies the delineation of functions among the DA Regulatory Agencies for the registration of organic producers, produce, and inputs; and DOH-FDA for the registration of organic processed food, and includes labeling provisions for PGS certified products.
In terms of changes in the structure of the policy-making body for organic agriculture, the new Act includes provisions for the restructuring of the National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB). The restructuring will replace the Secretary of Department of Education (DepEd) with the Director General of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), relieve the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources of their duties, revise the requirements for small farmers, and include one representative each from the national association of PGS groups, national organization of LGUs engaged in organic agriculture, and indigenous organic farmers.
Moreover, RA 11511 establishes the National Organic Agriculture Program – National Program Coordinating Office (NOAP-NPCO) under the Department of Agriculture (DA) that shall serve as the planning and administrative secretariat of the NOAB and coordinating office of the NOAP.
Other salient provisions that should be highlighted at this stage are the appropriations and penal provisions which were also expounded in the new Act. For the implementation of the NOAP, RA 11511 appropriates an annual budget amounting to Php 1B, with specific allocations such as shared facilities, seeds development, distribution of planting materials and animals, feeds for aquaculture, soil amendments and bio-control agents, extension and training, socialized credit, small scale irrigation system, research for development, and marketing and promotion.
Last but definitely of importance, the Act revises the penal clause to provide power to BAFS to penalize officially accredited OCBs for non-compliance with the Philippine National Standards on Organic Agriculture.
Indeed major changes are expected to impact the organic agriculture industry with the amendment of RA 10068. With the recognition of the new alternative certification scheme and laying down of new and updated policies per RA 11511, a broad spectrum of opportunities is anticipated to open to benefit the organic agriculture stakeholders.
The copy of RA 11511 is accessible through this link: www.bafs.gov.ph. ###