Friday, June 26, 2015

Speech of President Aquino at the Livestock Philippines 2015 Expo and Conference

From the Website of GPH - Government of the Philippines

Speech of President Aquino at the Livestock Philippines 2015 Expo and Conference

Speech of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III President of the Philippines During the opening ceremonies of the Livestock Philippines 2015 Expo and Conference
[Delivered at SMX Convention Center, Pasay City, on June 25, 2015]

Standing before you, I cannot help but remember how, around two months ago, I hosted a reception for Madrid Fusion, a culinary group from Spain. During the event, I spoke about how food 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 our 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; 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 that there was an outbreak of Avian Flu in the Midwest Region of the United States, 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 the public health, which obviously hurts both business and the agriculture sector. In this scenario, everybody loses.
These kinds of situations 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 our 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 2005, and of Foot and Mouth Disease since 2010. 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 without vaccination, which further increases our competitiveness. Might I note: Only four ASEAN countries, the Philippines included, can boast of this recognition. The goal now is 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 livestock and poultry. Over the course of our term, we have increased the budget of this sector by 108 percent. This has given us the wherewithal to increase focus on animal health by providing vaccinations and undertaking disease surveillance, among other measures, to control, if not eradicate, these animal diseases.
We have also passed key legislation to promote food safety. With the help of allies from 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 deliberate measures to improve the safety and security of our food supply, it is also necessary to find ways to maximize the benefits of our eligibility as a meat exporter. This is why the Department of Agriculture is pursuing two large scale projects that will help us in this regard, namely, the AAA poultry dressing plant project in Bamban, Tarlac, worth 120 million pesos, and the AAA slaughterhouse project in Tanauan, Batangas, worth 150 million pesos. 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 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 other’s 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 the benefits to the Filipino people? We want people from different countries to stop by their local grocery 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 at their dining tables and enjoy home-cooked meals like adobo or nilaga without having to worry about the safety of their food.

I am proud to say that our countrymen now enjoy this simple comfort; but it is only through 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 something that Secretary Alcala earlier said: The increase in prices of your products has not much matched the figures for inflation, they have always been below inflation since we started. That I think 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 don’t have to worry about the safety of the food we eat in terms of its quality. And so for that, you really deserve our congratulations.
I bid you all a good day.

GPH Website

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