Bulacan State University (BulSU) through the project Fostering Robust Organic Agriculture Sustainable Technology (FROAST) under the Extension Services Office (ESO)-Institute of Environmental Governance (IEG) and in collaboration with Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) launched the first ever Organic Agriculture Congress in Bulacan. The event dubbed as Mga Organikong Magsasaka sa Panahon ng Pandemya which carries the theme, “Mga Organikong Produkto para sa Malusog na Pamayanan” is a 2-day event from November 17-18, 2021.

The provincial-wide celebration was officially opened by Bulacan Governor, Hon. Daniel Fernando. In his speech, he lauded the University alongside with the Department of Agriculture

– National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP) and Provincial Agriculture Office for spearheading POAC. He gave emphasis on the existence of FROAST commending its mission of promoting the benefits of organic farming.

Dr. Elizabeth A. Chua, Director of ESO provided the rationale and significance of the gathering. “Though this event, provincial-wide promotion and propagation of organic agriculture practices, products and benefits to humans and environmental health is pursued. POAC is also a way of BulSU to contribute in the realization of the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDs) for 2030. BulSU through its Extension Services Office and Institute of Environmental Governance are bent to achieve partnerships to ensure sustainable action for the greater number of mankind. Greater heights begin with a small step.”

BulSU President, Dr. Cecilia S. Navasero-Gascon delivered the message of inspiration which focused on the silverlining of this lockdown which is the reduction on pollution and agricultural- related environmental pressure. She hopes that this unintended environmental benefit be a consequence for us to strengthen our mitigating efforts in combating the worsening global challenges brought by climate change and the pandemic. She stressed some points about organic agriculture; first, sustainable agriculture appears to be the most efficient system that will provide long-term and viable profitability while turning to green technology. Second, it is important to highlight how organic farming helps to be a continuous source of food in our table and third, this platform has a pivotal role towards the greater resilience and sustainability of the Province of Bulacan.

Other University Officials also graced the event. The invocation was led by Dr. Remigio R. Musca, GAD Focal Person. Dr. Emerlita S. Naguiat, Dean of the College of Business Administration (CBA) introduced the occasion’s Keynote Speaker in the person of Hon. Cynthia A. Villar, Senator of the Republic of the Philippines. Dr. Teody C. San Andres awarded the plaque of recognition to Senator Villar. The introduction to the plenary speakers, Dr. Irene M. Adion, DA RFO3-Regional Division Chief and Dir. Bernadette F. San Juan, Director of NOAP were  given by Ms. Debbie Ann

S.  Tuazon, OIC  for  Extension  Program Management  and  Prof.  Maria S.  Bulaong,  Dean  of the

College of Arts and Letters (CAL) while Dr. Edgardo M. Santos, Vice President for Academic Affairs presented the plaque of recognition for the two speakers.

In her dialogue, Sen. Villar expressed her gratitude to Dr. Gascon for inviting her to be part of the opening ceremony. She also acknowledged the organic farmers involved in the project. Her speech concentrated on expounding the Philippine Organic Agriculture Act or R.A. 100068. By penning the amendment for the national organic agriculture law with introduction of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)–which is a more affordable and accessible certification system for organic products R.A. 11511 was passed on December 23, 2020. It aims to institutionalize the participatory guarantee system as an organic certification scheme. The amendment to the organic law will benefit an estimated 165,958 organic practitioners in the country. She ended her speech by congratulating the organizers of POAC and wished to reach the goals of multiplying the number of organic farmers in the country; conserving the environment and encouraging more consumers to patronize and eat vitamin-enriched foods.

The first plenary speaker Dr. Irene M. Adion, shared about the status of organic agriculture in Central Luzon for 2021 highlighting their accomplishments. Parallel to the advice of Sen Villar, Dr. Adion also reminded everyone to support locally produced organic products and only consume healthy farm harvest.

The second plenary speaker, Dr. Bernadette F. San Juan talked about the role of their agency in the nation-wide promotion and propagation of community-based organic agriculture systems which specifically aims to increase availability and accessibility of organic agriculture products; to increase demand of organic agriculture products; expand and institutionalize the practice of organic agriculture; intensify the certification of organic farmland and establish sustainable organic agriculture systems. She also mentioned that NOAP is looking forward on the accomplishments of project FROAST and hopes that the next POAC will have a multisectoral approach and will be participated in by various organic stakeholders to optimize and improve program effectiveness and efficiency.

After the lectures, open forum was facilitated by Ms. Ruth Sealmoy, College of Business Administration College Secretary and Research Assistant for FROAST. It was followed by the 2 part presentation of organic farm and association partners of FROAST. In the audio visual presentations, the best practices and testimonials of 20 local organic practitioners were shown. These compilation of videos are part of the search for the best organic farm site. To end the event’s kickoff, Ms. Crystalyn Lumague, CBA College Extension Service Unit Head and FROAST Project Coordinator, delivered some reminders for the second day.

On the following day, the event opened with a solemn prayer led by Ms. Rosario Reyes, GAD Technical Staff. Ms. Ruth Sealmoy summarized the activities during POAC’s first day and after that, pre-recorded inspirational messages were delivered by Dr. Jaime P. Pulumbarit, Vice President for Administration and Finance and after a while by the Department of Agriculture Secretary, Dr. William D. Dar.

Dr. Jaime Pulumbarit commended Dr. Elizabeth A. Chua for coming up with a long-term holistic project that is resource conserving, socially supportive; commercially competitive and environmentally sound. He reiterated that BulSU under the administration of Dr. Gascon is one- hundred percent in support of the Bulacan Organic Agriculture Congress endeavors. Dr. Pulumbarit believes that POAC can help eradicate employment because farming can provide us new livelihood opportunities.

Eventually, Sec. William Dar shared that organic agriculture is undoubtedly the way of the future. He stressed the need to upscale the implementation of organic agriculture programs. Meaning, expanding the areas under organic cultivation and drafting more practitioners into the movement.

After the messages, panelist of the contest were introduced by Ms. Maria Antonina DC. Santiago, Extension Program Component Head for SAMBALARAN and Project Coordinator of FROAST. Included in the esteemed set of judges were, Dr. Richard F. Clemente, Director for Research

Management; Ms. Ruth R. Sealmoy and Ms. Ma. Gloria SF. Carillo, Provincial Agriculturist of Bulacan.

Among the 20 finalists, the organic farms which reigned supreme were BIO Farm and Training Center Inc. for 3rd place; Munting Paraiso ni Yoly Farm bagged the 2nd place and the over-all champion belonged to Talbak Coffee Growers Association.

All the winners and participants will receive cash prizes and certificates of recognition.

Dr. Allen N. Maroma, Director for Development and Innovation delivered the closing remarks for the program.

This 2-day online event garnered a total of 709 participants who are from BulSU community and extension stakeholders especially organic practitioners.

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