Transcending beyond borders, the Department of Science and Technology-National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (DOST-NCBP) took part in the Engagement Workshop for the Development of Post 2020 Biosafety Project back to back with the Biosafety Clearing House (BCH) Training Workshop from 4-7 February 2020 at New Delhi, India and the 9th International Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Conference on 8-10 February 2020 at University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
DOST-Assistant Scientist and Head Secretariat, NCBP and DOST-Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC) Ma. Lorelie U. Agbagala, DOST- represented the DOST in the two (2) Workshops.
The Philippines as a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, joined the Asia Biosafety Family (ABF) (formerly known as Asia BCH) in 2015. It is composed of 23 Asian nations, established to build the countries capability to effectively implement the provisions of the Protocol, specifically in the area of Public Awareness and Education on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
The Cartagena Protocol aims to ensure an adequate level of protection in the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on transboundary movements.
The participants of the Engagement Workshop reviewed the draft Project Identification Form (PIF) and discussed the detailed activities to be done at the national and regional level. The Workshop also identified two thematic areas under which the detailed activities will be implemented for a period of three years (2021-2023):
- Handling, Transport, Packaging, and Identification of LMOs
- Information Sharing and Knowledge Management and Sustaining Regional Cooperation and Coordination
Ms. Julieta Fe L. Estacio, the outgoing National Focal Point of the BCH, and serving as resource person in the two events, gave a brief presentation about the background of the ABF, its achievements during the four-year period, and initiatives spearheaded by the ICC and the Philippines in the development of the regional biosafety project. Ms. Estacio also took the opportunity to show the country’s gratitude and appreciation to ABF for the opportunity given to the Philippines to coordinate the four focal areas of the BCH roadmap for a period of two years (2016-2017).
Trainors Training Workshop
Right after the Engagement Workshop was the Trainors Training Workshop which aimed to bring together BCH NFPs from ABF countries to strengthen their capacity to effectively utilize the BCH as well as to promote regional and sub-regional collaborations, networking and exchange of experience. The participants were introduced to the various features of the BCH as a rich source of information that can be used by relevant stakeholders, specifically by government regulators. They had showcased a number of demonstrations on how to access various biosafety-related documents including the use of Virtual Learning Facility (VLF) where various training materials for specific stakeholders can be viewed and downloaded.
The two Workshops were attended by representatives from Malaysia, Sri-Lanka, Cambodia, Bhutan, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Nepal, and Korea.
The 9th International Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Conference
Ms Agbagala was invited to the 9th International Plant Tissue Culture and Biotechnology Conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh to give a presentation on “Philippines Biosafety Regulatory System and GM Crops Approval”. Ms. Agbagala showcased the Current Regulatory Framework for GMOs, the roles of the National Government Agencies, Scope of the Current GMO Regulation, current Guidance on Risk Assessment, and Trends in Modern Biotechnology. Ms. Estacio Co-Chaired the session on “Translational aspects and biosafety concerns of transgenic crops” with Korea. The event, which takes place every three years, served as venue for reporting and information exchanges, including further collaboration of scientists working on crops/varietal improvements and plants for medicinal use thru the use of modern biotechnology.
Ms Agbagala was given recognition as the “Best Presenter Award” for that particular session and Ms Estacio was likewise requested to give a brief impression during the Conference’s closing ceremony.
The Conference was participated by around 300 scientists/researchers from Bangladesh Malaysia, India, Nepal, Korea and the Philippines .
The two International events participated by the DOST-NCBP is set to further strengthen the capacity of the Philippines in the field of biosafety.