Alcala says upcoming regional agri-forestry ministers' meetings to strengthen PHL's standing in integrated ASEAN market (Philippines News Agency)

The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday said that the upcoming ASEAN Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) meetings that the country will host September 7 to 11 will be a venue for the Philippines to further consolidate and strengthen the country’s policies and programs on agriculture in the context of an integrated ASEAN economic community (AEC).

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that among the policy areas the country could build on through the AMAF meetings will be enhanced product quality and safety, harmonization of standards and conformance to procedures and other non-tariff measures, investing in new technologies to raise agricultural productivity and human nutrition and accessing regional markets.

Harmonizing the Philippine standards with the regional standards is imperative to build the country’s competitive advantage in the ASEAN market. Among these standards are on phytosanitary measures and good agricultural practices, he said.

The Philippines needs to fully align our domestic product and production standards with that of ASEAN’s – not only to be competitive but also to empower the agriculture industry. Among other standards, we have been closely working on the alignment of our standards on good agricultural practices, good animal husbandry practices and organic agriculture, Alcala said.

Following the ASEAN tradition and rotation of hosting meetings, 2015 will be the Philippines’ turn to host the AMAF ministerial meetings, namely, the 37th AMAF Meeting, the 15th AMAF Plus Three (AMAF+3) Meeting and the 4th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AIMMAF).

The country last hosted the AMAF meetings in September, 2005 in Tagaytay City.

Prior to the ministerial meetings, related senior officials meetings (SOM) are conducted to finalize stands on issues required for attention by the ministers.

From the SOM recommendations, the ministers endorse decisions that individual member states should act on.

In past meetings, these include harmonization of ASEAN maximum residue limits of pesticides for agricultural produce that are commonly traded in the region, standards for the production, harvesting and post-harvest handling of major fruits and vegetables, and standards for vaccines for infectious livestock and poultry diseases.

The AMAF meetings will be attended by ministers of agriculture, fisheries, and forestry from the 10 ASEAN countries, namely, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, VietNam; the Deputy Secretary-General of the ASEAN Secretariat; representatives of dialogue – partner multilateral organizations and representatives from ASEAN civil society organization.

Ministers of agriculture, fisheries and forestry from the ASEAN+3 countries Japan, South Korea and China will also attend the 15th AMAF+3 Meeting and India for the 4th AIMMAF.

The meetings of AMAF with their Plus Three counterparts – Japan, South Korea and China – will tackle cooperation on issues related to food security, trans-boundary pest and animal diseases, forestry, climate change, biomass energy, and capacity building.

The AMAF+3 meetings will also discuss the progress on specific AMAF+3 sectoral cooperation activities such as the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve and the ASEAN Food Security Information System.

Some agreements between ASEAN and international or regional organizations may likewise be signed by AMAF and AMAF+3 in these ministerial meetings.

On the other hand, the plan of action for the 2016-2020 ASEAN-India Cooperation in Agriculture and Forestry will be endorsed for approval by the ministers at the 37th AMAF Meeting.

The cooperation was formalized through the convening of the 1st Meeting of the ASEAN-India Working Group on Agriculture and Forestry (AIWGAF) in January 2011 in New Delhi.

The ASEAN-India Cooperation on Agriculture and Forestry, developed during the first AIWGAF meeting, identified the convening of the AIMMAF as one of its regular activities under its 2011-2015 Medium-Term Plan of Action.

Among major expected outputs and agreements will be the approval of the 2015-2025 ASEAN Plus Three Bioenergy and Food Security Framework and 2016-2020 Plan of Action for the ASEAN-India Cooperation in Agriculture and Forestry.

The ministers are also expected to approve other major strategic plans, standards, guidelines as well as regional statements on animal health, food security, nutrition, importation of agricultural products, live movement of aquatic animals, equivalency of fishery products inspection and certification systems, climate-resilient agriculture practices, and entry prevention of fishery products obtained through illegal, unreported unregulated fishing in the supply chain. (PNA)