Soil and Nutrient Management experts from Southeast Asian Countries forged a partnership to push for the creation of policy recommendations on healthy soils during the opening ceremony of the  5th Meeting of ASEAN Soil and Nutrient Management Expert Group for ASEAN Guidelines on Soil and Nutrient Management.The meeting, hosted by the Department of Agriculture thru the Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM), was held on October 18, 2016 in Quezon City.

It was attended by representatives from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines. Representing the country were BSWM Director Sonia M. Salguero and Director for Operations Roy Abaya.Through the said meeting, ASEAN member-nations are expected to come up with concrete and feasible action for sustainable agriculture, crop production, soil health, and soil and nutrient management. The policies will be used in crafting activities and plans 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 thet the Duterte administration considers policy framework on the best use of agricultural lands in the country as top priority.The message further states the commitment of the president to support the agreement particularly those relating to ASEAN sustainable agri-food systems project which seeks for policies and strategies for soil and nutrient management.“DA subscribes to the key issue that the health of soil, the crops, the livestock, and the communities are one and indivisible.” Piñol said.

Senator Cynthia Villar, senate committee chair on Environment & Natural Resources, reiterated that the department’s goal must be anchored on achieving 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.

The solon adds that there is a need to protect soils worldwide as threats to healthy soils are rising.“In the Philippines, 88 percent of fertile lands are affected by soil degradation. Out of the 30 million (M) hectares (ha), 11.45M ha are vulnerable to land degradation while 2.33M ha are already in the advance stage of degradation,” Villar added citing the FAO data.

Days after Piñol was installed as DA chief, he immediately ordered BSWM for a nationwide soil mapping analysis to formulate a color-coded soil fertility map in major rice producing provinces.The output, according to Piñol will help farmers increase their productivity.It will also result to proper soil management strategies and soil suitability maps.

The Philippines anticipates more cooperation among ASEAN countries in the issue of soil nutrient management. (Kristel Merle, DA-AFID)