Asean to create soil management policy

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MEMBERS of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have agreed to develop regional policy guidelines for sustainable soil management after a meeting of Asean agriculture experts and policymakers held here last week.

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The agreement was the outcome of the 5th Meeting of Asean Soil and Nutrient Management Expert Group for Asean Guidelines on Soil and Nutrient Management, hosted by the Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, in Quezon City on October 18.

Soil management and agriculture experts from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines attended the conference. BSWM Director Sonia M. Salguero and Director for Operations Roy Abaya represented the country.

The objective of the meeting, according to a joint statement issued at its conclusion, was to lay the groundwork for Asean-wide “concrete and feasible action for sustainable agriculture, crop production, soil health, and soil and nutrient management.” The policy recommendations will be used to guide and plan of actions to ultimately address issues and threats in soil and nutrient management such as soil degradation and soil erosion.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, in a message delivered for him by Director Abaya, stressed that the Duterte administration considers the policy framework on the best use of agricultural lands in the country as a top priority.

Piñol stressed the commitment of the president to support the agreement, particularly those initiatives relating to Asean sustainable agri-food system projects.

“DA subscribes to the key issue that the health of soil, the crops, the livestock, and the communities are one and indivisible, and there is a need to craft policies and strategies for soil and nutrient management,” Piñol said.

Senator Cynthia Villar, Senate committee chair on Environment and Natural Resources, addressing the meeting, said that the agriculture department’s goal must be available and affordable food for every Filipino.

“To be able to achieve this, we must ensure the health of the soil, as it remains the most vital component to attain food security,” she said.

“Without sustainable and productive soil resources, our production and food security target will be just a dream,” Villar said.

Villar shared some statistics about the state of soil degradation in the Philippines.

“In the Philippines, 88 percent of fertile lands are affected by soil degradation. Out of 30 million hectares, 11.45 million hectares are vulnerable to land degradation while 2.3 million hectares are already in the advance stage of degradation,” Villar said.

One of Piñol’s first orders after his appointment as agriculture secretary was for the BSWM to conduct nationwide soil mapping analysis, with the goal to create an up-to-date soil fertility map of the country.

The Philippines anticipates the assistance of other Asean countries to enable the BSWM to complete the color-coded soil fertility map, the agency said following the meeting.

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