Gov’t to reconsider GMO ban

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s advisors from the private sector said on Thursday said that the administration, through its chief lawyer, will seek reconsideration of a recent appellate court ruling on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“The Solicitor General has been instructed to seek clarification and reconsideration of the decision, emphasizing its limited scope and potential widespread impact on agriculture and food security,” the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) said in a statement following a meeting with Mr. Marcos on Wednesday night.

The Court of Appeals, in a 143-page decision issued on April 17, revoked the biosafety permits for the commercial propagation of Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant, citing their potential risks to the environment and the health of consumers.

It also stopped the field testing and use, as well as imports of, GMOs until all measures have been to ensure they are safe.

“President Marcos reassured stakeholders of the government’s commitment to continue with the Golden Rice and BT Talong programs, despite legal ambiguities,” PSAC said.

At the same meeting, Mr. Marcos and his private advisors discussed ways to boost the coconut industry, pushing for the restructuring of a development plan for stakeholders.

The President proposed that the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan Fund be restructured to ensure “a more efficient allocation of resources” to support the Philippine Coconut Authority’s replanting strategy targeting 100 million coconut trees within the next five years, PSAC said.

They also pushed for a substantial increase in funding for the salt fertilization program, “with a shift towards local sourcing” through collaboration with cooperatives.”

“These initiatives are expected to enhance coconut yields and further develop the local salt industry, which provides crucial inputs for coconut cultivation,” PSCAC said.

At the meeting, Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla of the Department of Energy said they would elevate biodiesel blend from B2 to B5 over the course of three years starting October.

“This policy aims to improve fuel efficiency while ensuring that the coconut supply for the food sector remains unaffected.”

For the sugar industry, Mr. Marcos endorsed a PSAC recommendation to bridge sugar imports during off-milling seasons and to refine imported raw sugar domestically for export.

The public and private sectors also outlined stricter regulatory and tax enforcement strategies to address smuggling of tobacco and vape products, including “implementing new tax measures, enhancing monitoring, and enforcing stricter compliance protocols to curb illegal trade and ensure public safety.”

In a separate statement, Mr. Marcos’ office said PSAC pushed for an amendment of the Anti-Agri Smuggling Act of 2016 to include tobacco products and add provisions on penalties for distributing and selling smuggled products.

The council also called on the Department of Trade and Industry to set a deadline for the registration of importers and manufacturers of vapor products.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue, meanwhile, should start imposing tax requirements on tobacco and vapor products, PSAC proposed.

It recommended that state operations against smugglers of smuggled tobacco and vapor products and their retailers be reported to the Office of the President on a monthly basis. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza