The Department of Agriculture is advancing the transformation of the agriculture and fisheries sector into a competitive, science-based and technology-backed industry, managed by young, creative, innovative, and vibrant Filipino agricultural and biosystems engineers (ABEs).

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar articulated the Duterte administration’s overall vision of a food secure and resilient Philippines with empowered and prosperous farmers and fisherfolks, in his keynote message at the opening of the 70th Philippine Society of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers (PSABE) Annual National Convention held online on April 27.

The theme for this year’s celebration, Harnessing Industry 4.0 for Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering,’ is indeed relevant to the current situation faced by the agriculture and fisheries sector,” said Sec. Dar. “Engaging the youth is imperative to attain a growth of 2.5% goal for 2021 and to sustain our progress towards a fully food-secure nation.”

Attendance of ABEs in the annual event is meaningful since they are key players in the implementation of RA No. 10915 or the Philippine Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Act of 2016, RA No. 10601 or the Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization Law, and other related laws, he added.

Now more than ever, farmers need to maximize tried and tested technologies and generate new ones responsive to the present times. The Agri Chief elaborated the four key pillars in transforming the Philippine agriculture and fisheries sector under One DA Reform Agenda- farm consolidation, modernization, industrialization, and professionalization of agriculture, and urged agricultural and biosystems engineers (ABEs) to look into how they can come in and support.

In farm consolidation, “DA considers the establishment, operation, maintenance and management of Agri-Fisheries Machinery and Equipment Service Centers (AFMESCs) and the Laser Land Levelling spearheaded by DA-BAFE (Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering) to support the Bayanihan Agri-Clusters.”

Modernization heavily requires the involvement and participation of ABEs through the provision of agricultural machinery hugely funded by DA banner programs for rice, corn, high value commercial crops, livestock and organic agriculture which form part of the implementation of National Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization Program or NAFMP.

DA is pursuing the industrialization of agriculture by strengthening of local assembling and manufacturing of agricultural machinery with the ongoing formulation of agricultural machinery manufacturing road map and feasibility study of Agricultural Machinery Exhibition in Clark. Agro-processing like the expansion or upscaling of the Rice Processing Centers as well as processing centers for corn and high value crops need the services of ABEs.

Sec. Dar emphasized the need to establish the career system of ABEs, agriculturists, veterinarians and fishery professionals who are frontline professionals in the agriculture sector. A career system for ABEs in DA is established with the creation and institutionalization of BAFE, Regional Agricultural Engineering Divisions (RAEDs) and ABE Groups of concerned DA bureaus and attached agencies, and with corresponding ABE plantilla positions. LGUs at the provincial, city and municipal levels are currently replicating the system.

To complement professionalization in agriculture, DA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) entered a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in 2020 for the implementation of Government Internship Program (GIP) for ABE Youth. The internship program has already deployed the first batch of 110 young ABEs in DA Regional Field Offices and other DA agencies like Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), and Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

DA is likewise pursuing the implementation of a MOA with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), PSABE, and Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers and Distributors Association Foundation, Inc. (AMMDA) on the rolling out of the training regulations for the agri-fisheries mechanization sector with the end-view of producing adequate number of agri-fisheries machinery operators and technicians. ABEs would serve as trainers and competency assessors in the said program.

In conclusion, Sec. Dar enjoined PSABE and all its member ABEs to the furtherance of the four key pillars in harnessing Industry 4.0 for agricultural and biosystems engineering. The annual convention coincides with 17th International Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Conference and Exhibition and 32nd Philippine Agricultural Engineering Week.

National officers and members of the PSABE, PSABE Board of Trustees, regional chapter officers, past presidents council, Young Engineers Section, Pre-Professional Groups or ABE students, Professional Regulatory Board of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (PRC-BOAE), officials of the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering, agricultural and biosystems engineers from ASEAN member attended the two-day event that concludes on April 28. ###Marshall Louie Asis, DA-BAFE (Published on April 30, 2021)