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Philippines to host simultaneous ASEAN ministers meetings in Tagaytay

by Rudyard R. Roxas


Agriculture and forestry ministers of the 10 member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ministers of Japan , China , and South Korea will hold a week-long simultaneous meetings to discuss regional and global economic developments in the food, agriculture, and forestry sectors.

The Philippines, through the Department of Agriculture (DA), will host the 27 th Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) that will be held simultaneously with the 5 th SOM-AMAF Plus Three Meeting (including the three northeast Asian countries China, Japan and South Korea) and the AMAF Plus Three on 26 – 30 September 2005 in Tagaytay City.

In preparation for the meetings, the DA created various committees and working groups and pooled its human and material resources. Selected officials of the DA and its bureaus and attached agencies were trained by the Department of Foreign Affair's Protocol Office on the basics of Philippine Protocol Practices.

Forging regional cooperation in agriculture
The ASEAN has been in existence since 1967 with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration in Bangkok , Thailand . What started out as a political organization during the cold war era, with five member countries, namely: Indonesia , Malaysia , Philippines , Singapore , and Thailand , has expanded into a regional community that encompasses political, economic and functional (i.e., trade, investment, industry, services, etc.), and external relations among members and neighboring countries. Membership in the ASEAN now also includes Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia , Lao PDR, Myanmar , and Vietnam.

In 1968, regional cooperation among Southeast Asian countries started in the agriculture sector, specifically in food production and supply. Nine years later, the scope was expanded to include other areas of agriculture and the addition of the forestry sector. Currently, ASEAN cooperation in these sectors operates on the following areas, namely: food security and handling; crops; livestock; fisheries; agricultural training and extension; agricultural cooperatives; forestry; and biotechnology.

This was further strengthened with the signing of the Ministerial Understanding on ASEAN Cooperation in Food, Agriculture and Forestry on 28 October 1993 in Brunei Darussalam.

Agriculture and forestry ministers
The ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry is the body that meets annually to consider, review, and approve policies, strategies, and action programs of the Cooperation in Food, Agriculture and Forestry. It is supported by the SOM-AMAF (Senior Officials Meeting-AMAF) that meets at least twice a year.

The chairmanship of both bodies is rotated annually following the ASEAN rule on succession (alphabetical order based on the names of the member countries). The last AMAF meeting was held in Yangon, Myanmar (October 2004) and was chaired by Myanmar Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation Major General Htay Oo with former Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap as vice-chair. The next meeting in Tagaytay will be chaired by DA Secretary Domingo F. Panganiban.

Undersecretary Segfredo R. Serrano is the SOM country leader of the Philippines.