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P-NOY Cites Government Initiatives under the DA for Philippine Livestock Industry Competiveness

25 June 2015. His Excellency President Benigno Simeon Aquino III was the guest speaker during the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Livestock Philippines Expo and Conference- Philippines 3rd International Livestock Production, Health and Nutrition and Meat Industry Show with this year’s theme “Food Safety from Farm to Shelf.” Before proceeding to the main hall at the 2nd Floor, President Aquino visited the exhibits at the ground floor of the SMX Convention Centre, Pasay City. He was escorted to the exhibition halls by DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and other officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Sonny Coloma, Congressman Mark Mendoza and Pasay City Mayor Antonio Calixto.

The President’s speech, the transcript of which is given below, was warmly received by the members of the Diplomatic Corps, the 2015 Expo and Conference exhibitors, members of the livestock and poultry industries, and the officers and personnel from National Government Agencies (NGA) involved in food safety, e.g. the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS). The NMIS was one of the sponsors of the 2015 Livestock Expo and Conference, which included the Livestock Industry Recognition Night Programme, during which 15 NMIS accredited meat establishments were honored.

“ Standing before you I cannot help but remember how around two months ago, I hosted the reception for Madrid Fusion, a culinary group from Spain, during the event I spoke of how is a fundamental part of the Filipino identity and how it is the central activity in any family gathering. I say this because today I am speaking to the people whose hard work serves as the foundation of a rich culinary tradition. Indeed, throughout the course of history much of our people’s happiness has been derived from good simple meals and good company. And this was made possible in part by a livestock sector that has managed to fulfill multiple priorities at once. Not only has your work ensured enough production to meet the demand for your meat and poultry products all while making a profit but above all else you have safeguarded and continue to safeguard public health.

The risks are certainly formidable… Just this May for instance it was reported there was an outbreak of avian flu in the Midwest Region of the US which prompted them to kill tens of millions of birds in an effort to stem the spread of the disease. This action was necessitated by such a large scale threat to public health which obviously hurts both business and agriculture sector. In this scenario, everybody loses. These kinds of situation shed light on the value of our gathering today. It is a way to share ideas and explore partnerships to make sure that the sector can thrive while addressing potential threats to our physical and economic well being. It is but natural that government has a large role to play in this regard.

Thus allow me to share with you some of the initiatives for our livestock industry: As you know, the Philippines has been performing very well in terms of food safety. Our country has been free from avian flu since 2010, foot-and-mouth disease since 2005 these achievements alone make us eligible to export meat . On top of this however, just last month, the World Organization for animal health accorded us the highest level of recognition as a country free from FMD w/o vaccination which further increases our competiveness. Might I note, only 4 Asean countries, the Philippines included, can boast of this recognition.

The goal now is to not only to maintain these standards but also to ensure that our livestock sector continues to grow. Our administration’s increased commitment in this regard can be seen in how much we have invested in the livestock and poultry.

Over the course of our term, we have increased the budget of this sector by 108%. This has given us the wherewithal to increase focus on animal health by providing vaccinations and undertaking disease surveillance amongst other measures to control and if not eradicate these animal diseases. We have also passed key legislation to promote food safety. With the help of our allies in Congress, we amended the Meat Inspection Code which imposes stricter fines for food safety violations, perhaps, most prominently the transport or sale of the so called “hot meat”. There is also the Food Safety Act of 2013 which strengthens our food regulatory system to better protect consumer health and facilitate our food exports.

As we have taken to deliberate measures to improve the safety and security of our food supply, it is also necessary to find ways to maximize the benefits our eligibility as a meat exporter. This is why the Department of Agriculture is pursuing two large scale projects that will help us this our regard, namely, the triple A (AAA) poultry dressing plant Project in Bamban Tarlac worth P120M and the triple “A” (AAA) slaughterhouse project in Tanauan, Batangas worth P150M. Both of these projects are expected to be completed within the year.

At the same time, the livestock industry is one that necessitates the forging of new and deeper partnerships with the private sector. I understand that more than half of the exhibitors here are visiting from other countries and looking for opportunities in the Philippine livestock industry. We continue to offer incentives for those willing to invest in these industries, in non-traditional areas, and invite all visitors present today to fully explore the possibilities and to look for opportunities through which we can amplify each others strengths towards a more robust livestock sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, all these efforts have been our government’s answer to a question that has served as the north star of our administration: how do we maximize benefits to the Filipino people? We want people from different countries to stop by their local groceries stores and markets and choose meat imported from the Philippines We want Filipino farmers and livestock and poultry raisers to maximize their profits and to succeed in their work and we want our people to sit in their dining tables and enjoy home cook meals like adobo or nilaga without having to worry about the safety of their food. I am proud to say our countrymen now enjoy this simple comfort but it is only thru the help of the stakeholders in this room that we can sustain the growth of this industry as well as the quality of our livestock and poultry. This is why I encourage all of you to make the most of this opportunity to continue sharing your ideas and best practices towards creating a livestock industry and consequently a Philippines that we can be proud to bequeath to future generations.

Before I close may I just highlight of something Secretary Alcala earlier said. The increase in prices of your products has not matched the figures for inflation, they have always been below inflation since we started. That I think that talks of the greater efficiencies that you have been able to achieve in your industry while at the same time maintaining the safety standards that we all long for. It is really a blessing to be in this country that we do not have to worry about the security of the food that we eat in terms of its quality. So for that you really deserve our congratulations. I bid you all a good day.”