Philippine Legislators and Judiciary Members Take Part in Discussions on Animal Biotechnology

  • 16 October 2020, Friday

Continuing its commitment in improving access to unbiased science-based information, SEARCA teamed up with the United States Embassy Manila and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) for the virtual Webinar on the Global State of Animal Biotechnology and the Need for National Policy Support held on October 6 and 8, 2020. The activity was also organized in collaboration with the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA), Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS), and the Committee on Science and Technology of the Philippine House of Representatives.     

Developed for members of Congress and the Judiciary, the webinars served as an avenue of knowledge sharing and learning to improve understanding of animal biotechnology in the country. As scientists make strides in the field of animal biotechnology, other key players such as policymakers, lawyers, and judges play a crucial role in ensuring that Filipinos reap the benefits of this technology. They need to be equipped with science-based evidence to guide them in crafting sound policies and decisions to achieve the desired change in the agricultural sector. 

Both webinars saw a great turnout, with over a hundred participants comprised of legislators, legislative staff, judges, lawyers, and court personnel in attendance. Notable attendees from the Congress include Rep. Elisa T. Kho of the Second District of Masbate and the Chair of the House Committee on Rural Development, Rep. Ron Salo of Kabayan party-list, and Rep. Sergio Dagooc of the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) party-list.    

The experts and distinguished guests from the Judiciary and Congress together with the organizers from ISAAA and SEARCA.The experts and distinguished guests from the Judiciary and Congress together with the organizers from ISAAA and SEARCA.

Experts and scientists from Argentina, United Kingdom, and the Philippines were brought in to share their expertise on global and local animal biotech applications as well as the regulations and challenges in the field. They also addressed questions and concerns from participants ranging from animal welfare, food safety, economic benefits of animal biotech, and regulatory policies.

Voicing his support for the initiative, PHILJA Chancellor, Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna underlined its significance particularly for the judges since they are tasked with resolving disputes that may arise in the future regarding biotechnology and its impacts in the Philippines. “We are eager to work with other stakeholders to come up with more specific guidelines or citizen’s handbook on biotech that can be used by the courts,” he added.

In her closing message, Hon. Elisa T. Kho, a physician by profession, reiterated the importance of animal biotech in advancing human and animal health, producing safer goods for human consumption, conserving the environment, and protecting endangered species. She continued, “it is very timely that we have come up with this activity to apprise our policymakers to initiate enabling laws that will safely feed the world, sustain human and animal health and welfare, and alleviate global poverty through biotechnology.”

Hon. Kho is also closely involved in pushing the legislative agenda on biotech in Congress. She happily informed the group that House Bill 260 (An Act Strengthening the National Policy on Access, and Benefit-Sharing from the Utilization Of Philippine Genetic Resources or the “PGRABS Act”) and House Bill 3372 (An Act Establishing the Biotechnology Authority of the Philippines) have already been passed at the committee level. They are now working on combining the two biotech-related bills to make it an enabling law.

Since 2017, the United States Embassy together with SEARCA, ISAAA, and its strong network of partners have been leading and organizing the annual Biotech Outreach Program. This collaboration has successfully engaged executive and legislative officials, academic institutions, agricultural entrepreneurs, and the press in discussions on biotech regulatory issues, the science, and strategic importance and potential benefits of biotech crops for Filipinos particularly Bt Eggplant and Golden Rice.