The Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS)

HISTORY: A Look Back

As a predominantly agricultural country, the Philippines have to provide an enabling environment to modernize its agriculture sector that will increase productivity amidst the growing needs of the global market for safe and quality products. The ultimate goal is to uplift the living conditions of the farmers and fisherfolk. The BAFS of the Department of Agriculture actively contributes towards the attainment of this goal through the fulfillment of its mandated functions in standard development and promotion and its initiatives towards the adoption of standards into technical regulations that will ensure quality and safety of Philippine agriculture and fishery products.

The Standard-Setting Agency for Agriculture and Fishery Products

The BAFS dates back its history on the enactment of Republic Act No. 8435 otherwise known as the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997. Under this law, the State recognized the roles and benefits of product standardization and consumer safety for the modernization of Philippine agriculture sector. With a mission to develop standards that are science-based, globally harmonized, and consistent with international commitments, the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards (BAFPS) was formally established on December 4, 1998 through Administrative Order No. 7 Series of 1998.

The establishment of BAFPS was in consonance with the State Declaration that
“all sectors involved in the production, processing, distribution and marketing of food and non-food agricultural and fisheries products shall adhere to and implement the use of product standards in order to ensure consumer safety and promote the competitiveness of agriculture and fisheries products.”

The existence of the BAFPS stem from the need for an effective implementation and enforcement of the agriculture and fisheries product standards through better coordination and strengthening of existing standards formulation and implementation in several government agencies.

Administrative Order No. 17 series of 1998 enumerates BAFPS’ powers and functions as defined in Section 63 of RA 8435, which are:

  1. Formulate and enforce standards of quality in the processing, preservation, packaging, labeling, importation, exportation, distribution, and advertising of agriculture, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture products;
  2. Conduct research on product standardization, and alignment of the local standards with the international standards; and,
  3. Conduct regular inspection of processing plants, storage facilities, abattoirs, as well as public and private markets in order to ensure freshness, safety and quality of products.

BAFS as one of the key players in the Organic Agriculture Industry

In 2010, Republic Act No. 10068 otherwise known as the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 declared it a policy of the State to promote, propagate, develop further and implement the practice of organic agriculture in the Philippines.

RA 10068 was amended by the Republic Act No. 11511 (Amendment to the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010) through its approval last December 23, 2020, the BAFPS, now BAFS, functions related to organic agriculture were streamlined to focus on standard development, registration of organic input producers, and organic integrated farms, and certification of PGS Groups and accreditation of Organic Certifying Bodies (OCBs) .

As the competent authority for organic agriculture, the BAFS is mandated to grant accreditation to OCBSs. Moreover, the BAFS is authorized to certify individual farms as a core PGS group, and conduct inspections on compliance of PGS groups with the established Philippine National Standards for organic agriculture and relevant regulations.

Under this law, the BAFS was given the authority to issue registration on integrated organic farms, and organic inputs such as organic soil amendments (OSA) and organic biocontrol agents (OBCA). In support to these regulatory functions, the BAFS will conduct monitoring and post-market surveillance of organic producers, farms, and inputs to ensure enforcement of the labeling requirements of the Organic Agriculture Law.

With the increased mandate of BAFS, the Bureau will be restructured, strengthened, and empowered. Additional mandates require the Bureau to restructure the Organic Agriculture Division, which now has three sections, namely: Accreditation Section, Registration and Evaluation Section, and the Monitoring and Labeling Enforcement Section. The administrative secretariat function of BAFS to the National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB) was transferred to the National Organic Agriculture Program – National Program Coordinating Office (NOAP-NPCO). Likewise, other technical divisions of the Bureau such as the Standards Development Division (SDD), Technical Services Division (TSD), and the Laboratory Services Division (LSD) will be strengthened to provide technical support to BAFS regulatory functions on organic agriculture.

BAFS is more than just product standards

In 2013, two more enabling laws were approved adding mandates to the BAFPS: 1.) Republic Act No. 10601 otherwise known as the Agriculture and Fisheries Mechanization Law (AFMech Law); and 2) Republic Act No. 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013.

The AFMech Law mandated BAFPS to develop standard specifications and test procedures for agriculture and fishery machinery and equipment in coordination with accredited testing centers (e.g. Agricultural Machine Testing and Evaluation Center (AMTEC), other government and private entities (e.g. DTI, DOST, Board of Agricultural Engineering (BoAE) – PRC), in conformity with ISO and part of the Philippine Agricultural Engineering Standards (PAES).

It was also the AFMech Law which renamed the BAFPS to BAFS, dropping out the “P for Product” to accommodate machineries, tools and equipment which cannot be categorized as agri-fishery ‘products.’

Just after the passage of AFMech Law, the Food Safety Act was enacted and mandated the BAFS to develop, adopt, amend, and revise mandatory, science-based food safety standards and codes of practices and to establish the mechanism and use the services of qualified DA pool of scientific experts. An online system for DAPE has been developed by BAFS to cater to this task, wherein qualified experts can register online according to their respective field of expertise.

In 2016, the Republic Act No, 10817 otherwise known as the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act of 2016 was enacted and mandated the BAFS to develop the Philippine National Standards for Halal covering primary and post-harvest foods. With this mandate, the BAFS was able to facilitate the development of Halal standards for agri-fishery products, feeds, and codes of practices for slaughtering ruminants and poultry.

The BAFS through the years…

Consistent with its mandate of developing and promoting agricultural and fishery standards, the BAFS has developed a total number of 314 PNS for agriculture and fishery (AF) products, tools, machinery, equipment, and structures since 2003. Majority of the PNS are related to crops for food and non-food (49%), followed by agriculture and fishery (AF) tools, machinery, equipment, and structures (22%), fish and fishery products (12%) and 11% for livestock and poultry products. Further analysis of the adopted standards shows that more than half or 56% of these PNS are quality standards and the rest are food safety standards (44%). By 2025, the BAFS endeavors to adopt 100% of the relevant ASEAN and Codex standards as PNS to contribute to making the agriculture and fishery sector more globally competitive.