“We want the rich and poor to go organic”: new DOT chief promotes food and wellness in Agri fair

Produce from Teraoka Family Farm. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Harvest 2018) Chili sauces from Bad Boy Tikboy, (Photo courtesy of Philippine Harvest 2018) Mangoes from Guimaras. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Harvest 2018) The 8th edition of the Philippine Harvest, organized by the Department of Tourism (DOT), in partnership with the SSI Group and Central Square, celebrated Philippine food destinations. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Harvest 2018)

We stopped by the 8th Philippine Harvest at Central Square, where we treated to the sight of so many delicious (and sustainable!) products from different provinces.

Dubbed “Philippine Harvest: Celebration of Philippine Food Destinations,” the food fair, organized by the Department of Tourism (DoT) in partnership with the SSI Group and Central Square, highlights some of the best culinary destinations and agricultural products the Philippines has to offer.

Masarap i-promote ang ating bansa,” says DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat. “Napakaganda ng ating bansa. Mabait ang mga tao. We can all speak English. We have the best food, the best beaches, the best sites, the best cuisine.“

Sec. Puyat, who just stepped into office, is looking forward to this new opportunity to serve the country. “With this position, I’m so excited kasi I can go all over the country and promote not only the food but also the different sites,” she says. “I’ve been DA Undersecretary for close to 12 years so that’s always been my first love. Madaming nagtatanong, ‘Bakit pagkain nanaman?’ Diba kapag bumibisita sa ibang bansa, pagkain pa rin ang hinahanap mo? Kasama na sa itinerary yung pagkain.”

Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Harvest 2018)

Incorporating her past position as Undersecretary for Administration, Agribusiness, and Marketing with her present one as DOT Chief, Sec. Puyat believes, has great potential, especially in the agritourism industry. “It’s developed already,” she says. “When I was in the Department of Agriculture, madami na kaming na-accredit sa DA together with the DTI—Costales Farms, Teraoka Farms—we already have accredited farms where tourists can go to and experience agriculture.”

Sec. Puyat also talked about the country’s thrust toward organic farming, something she was a known advocate for when she was in the DA. “So far, a lot of people are going organic. Our goal even before was to make organic not only for the rich but also for the poor. Because actually, when you do organic, mura lang naman siya. We want everybody, rich and poor, to eat healthy,” she says. “We have a law, RA 168, which is the Organic Act of 2010 and we have been continuously been helping our farmers go organic. From 14,000 hectares in 2010 naging 230,000 hectares na ang planted to organic agriculture. That’s a big leap. We have been helping but of course we want to continue that.”

Future DOT projects include opening or expanding more airports to make travel easier for local and foreign tourists, as well as hopefully, opening Boracay. Puyat says, “I think the best person to talk about whether it’s going to open or not is Roy Cimatu. He’s the head of the Boracay Rehabilitation Task Force, but if you’re going to ask me, I am praying and wishing that it will open. If the gods help me, that will be my first project.”

The fair runs until June 17, 2018 at Central Square Mall, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.