Agriculture Philippines sets to upgrade Standards for EURO Exports

Department of Agriculture Philippines is set to improve monitoring of high-value crops' compliance with phytosanitary standards under the third phase of the European Union's (EU) trade-related technical assistance program (TRTA), an official said yesterday, citing the need to make the country's farm exports more competitive.

"Under TRTA-2, our cooperating agencies in the department were the BAI (Bureau of Animal Industry), BPI (Bureau of Plant Industry), BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) and the PCA (Philippine Coconut Authority), but we focused mostly on fisheries," Peewee Matibel G. Marges, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) desk officer of the Agriculture department's policy research service, told reporters at the sidelines of the TRTA-2 culmination activity in Makati City.

"For the next phase of the program, we want to shift to vegetables and fruits."

TRTA is a technical assistance program jointly implemented by EU and the Philippine government.

Through the EU's funding, the program seeks to enable the Philippines to improve access to the European market, strengthen the country's economic environment to encourage trade and investment, and strengthen trade-related functions of participating agencies, among others.

The first phase of the program ran from 2007 to 2008. The second phase, which began in 2008 and was formally concluded yesterday, was spearheaded by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Other implementing agencies were the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC).

TRTA-2, which received a grant totaling €7.5 million, had four components: the Technical Barriers to Trade, which was implemented by DTI's Bureau of Product Standards; SPS under the DA and its attached bureaus; Trade Facilitation and Customs under the BoC; as well as the World Trade Organization Capacity Building under DTI-Bureau of Internal trade Relations and NEDA.

UNDERSTANDING EU RULES

EU and the Philippines are set to embark on the third phase of the program later this year, according to Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal.

"TRTA-3 will build on the success of TRTA-2. It will be implemented by DTI…over a four-year period with a budget of €8.9 million," Mr. Cristobal said during the event.

"It will also include competition policy as an area of support."

Ms. Marges said the Agriculture department, through the SPS subcomponent, will continue implementing its usual array of projects under the TRTA program in the third phase when it starts.

"TRTA has been helpful in enabling the department to assist our agricultural stakeholders in making sure their products meet international standards," she said.

"Also, the program makes it easier for us to understand EU's regulations on trade, which we can also impart to our stakeholders to make it easier for them to tap into the European market."

TRAINING

Ms. Marges said that, through TRTA-2, the department was able keep the European market open to fish exports from the Philippines.

"We were able to conduct targeted training and mentoring to strengthen the food safety and inspection system of the BFAR to help pass EU inspection," she said.

"This ensured that the country's fish exports to the EU, which is comprised of almost 500 million consumers, can continue."

The DA was also able to prepare a blueprint for new food safety standards under the second phase of the program, Ms. Marges added.

"Through TRTA-3, we hope to build on our gains from this recently concluded phase," she said.

Other participating agencies also reported their achievements from TRTA-2 in the culmination activity.

Trade department for one said that it was able to train officials on trade policy analysis to better equip them in trade negotiations, particularly on free trade agreements.

Its Product Standards bureau also reported adoption of over 230 international standards in the field of electronics locally, among others.

The Customs bureau, meanwhile, said that through the program, it was able to develop a cargo tracking system aided by global positioning technology

Philippines Standard Upgrade for exporting shellfish to EU

The Philippines is making use of the third tranche of the European Union's Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) program in order to export shellfish to Europe, according to Agriculture Planning officer Maribel Marges.

Dennis Tiotangco of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) explained that the Philippines needs to comply with EU sanitary and phytosanitary requirements before the latter will import Philippine shellfish.

"For this we need to build our own national shellfish accreditation program. We have asked the TRTA to help us on this," he said.

The Fisheries Bureau had earlier identified mussels, clams, oysters and scallops for cultivation as possible exports to the EU.

The TRTA program supports poverty-alleviating projects in the Philippines "through further integration into the international trade system." It does this by enhancing government agencies' ability to facilitate this integration.

The program assists projects of the Agriculture and Trade Departments, the Bureau of Customs and the National Economic Development Authority.

The TRTA's third tranche offers €8.9 million, or P469.55 million, for all projects that will come under the program. To facilitate the export of shellfish, these monies will be used to build infrastructure such as research and development laboratories.

Under the earlier P435-million TRTA 2, the Philippines was able to strengthen the fisheries, plant and animal bureaus via a number of programs that successfully addressed trade issues.

Particularly, the Fisheries Bureau was able to improve the food safety and inspection systems that ensured continued Philippine fish exports to the EU.

Source: GMA News & Business World Online

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