As the nationally-mandated agency on the sustainable management of soil and water resources for agriculture, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA-BSWM) spearheads the Philippines’ Celebration of the FAO World Soil Day 2022 with the theme Soils, Where Food Begins. Observed in synchronized fashion globally, the celebration was held at the DA-BSWM Lopez Convention Hall in hybrid format – onsite and Zoom Online Platform, and streamed live via Facebook – on 05 December 2022.

Present at the DA-BSWM Lopez Convention Hall were DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban, Chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform Senator Cynthia A. Villar, Assistant Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) Philippines Representative (Programme) Ms. Tamara Palis Duran, other FAO-UN representatives, Mr. Rex Estoperez, other Department of Agriculture (DA) representatives, Media representatives, and the awardees of the 2022 WSD Poster Making Contest.

The Philippine celebration formally commenced with the Opening Message delivered by DA-BSWM OIC-Director Gina P. Nilo. She started by saying that to care for this earth is our way of giving back to God’s glory and honor. Director Nilo then recognized the support of President Ferdinand “BongBong” R. Marcos, Jr. Further recognized were Senator Cynthia A. Villar and the rest of the Senators, Congressmen, DA Senior Undersecretary Panganiban, DA-Regional Field Offices, Academe, farmers, farmer organizations, local government units (LGUs) – for partnering in raising the awareness on the importance of soil.

In addition, Director Nilo said that soil begins through each one’s efforts from all sectors, through our commitment to preserve and sustain the value of soil as a scarce resource for food production, for the provision of all basic needs.  Further, Director Nilo announced that DA Senior Undersecretary Panganiban is working towards the Declaration of 05 December 2022, and every year thereafter as the “National Soil Day” in Observance of the FAO World Soil Day.

As she continues with her message, she highlighted the DA-BSWM’s Top 5 Agenda in attribution to the Global Soil Partnership’s (GSP’s) Pillars of Action – National Soil Health Program (NSHP), Implementation of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) to Address Land Degradation and Drought, Strengthening the Implementation of PD 1435, Philippine Soil Land Resources Information (PHILSRI), and Rainwater Harvesting Projects and Cloud Seeding Operations.

Following the Opening Message, Ms. Tamara Palis Duran delivered her message on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Philippines. Ms. Duran extended their honor and privilege in joining the celebration of the 2022 WSD in the Philippines. In her message, she mentioned that soil nutrient loss is one of the major threats of human nutrition and global food security. She further highlighted the importance of soil by stating seven (7) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are in a way related to soil health: SDG 2 – Zero Hunger, SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being, SDG 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13 – Climate Action, and SDG15 – Life on Land.

In addition, Ms. Duran said that the FAO continues to coordinate the GSP to interactively synergize multiple stakeholders to address soil issues through innovations, knowledge sharing, and soil-related interventions between and among countries. Ms. Duran also acknowledged the projects of the DA-BSWM as they help in the realization of the goals at the country level. As she ends her message, Ms. Duran said that through the continued strong partnership of the FAO-UN and the DA-BSWM, we will be able to find sustainable solutions to the present challenges facing the country’s soil resources for the benefit of the future generation.

The DA-BSWM, in its celebration of the WSD 2022, is also fortunate to be graced with the presence of Senator Cynthia A. Villar. The Senator delivered her message for the WSD 2022 celebration wherein she focused on the improvement of the quality of our soil. Senator Villar shared the benefits that the Las Piñas LGU gained from composting.

The Senator also thanked the DA-BSWM for helping promote composting. She acknowledged the program as a help to farmers to have their own organic fertilizer, and reduce the importation of chemical fertilizer. She mentioned that she hopes more towns in the Philippines will be able to compost and produce more organic fertilizer, as this will be of help to our soils.

To close her message, Senator Villar said that “Healthy soil is the world’s lifeline, ensures a steady food supply, preserves clean water, increases biodiversity, and helps mitigate climate change.” She then reiterated the importance of the DA-BSWM in performing its mandate. Lastly, Senator Villar told the DA-BSWM that she hopes the agency will be serious in promoting healthy soil and water.

As one of the highlights of the event, Department of Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban delivered his Keynote Message. Senior Undersecretary Panganiban said that it is the prime objective of the Marcos Administration to the balance and sensible use of land to ensure that soil resources are preserved, and the agricultural heritage is protected.

Moreover, the Senior Undersecretary underscored that the state of the land and the soils affect everything from farm productivity to national economic development and climate change. He further said that soil degradation and soil erosion are not just farm problems but matters of national concerns.

He further encouraged every consumer, every farmer, including legislators, policy makers to recognize the context interconnected nature of the ecosystem. He said that this means taking strong steps to ensure that we stand by our commitment to the Five Pillars of Action under the FAO’s Global Soil Partnership.

Closing his message, Senior Undersecretary Panganiban said that “after all, protecting our resources requires us to confront challenges and not pass them upon the future generations.” He further encouraged everyone to achieve a World Soil Day that is for all.

After the delivery of the Messages by the Guests of Honor, the program proceeded with the awarding of the winners of the WSD 2022 Poster Making Contest, Photo Contest, and Soil Cake Contest. Winners in the respective contests are: For the Poster Making Contest – 3rd Place is the Ismael Mathay Senior High School, 2nd Place is the Lagro High School, and the 1st Place is the Batasan Hills National Highschool. For the Photo Contest – People’s Choice is the entry of Geldwyn Fisalbon, 3rd Place is the entry of Blaise Joie Gredona, 2nd place is the entry of Jovy Fullon, and the 1st place is the entry of Christian Tupos Galgao. And for the Soil Cake contest, the first ever in-house cake competition relating to soils held at the BSWM – the 3rd is the Agricultural Land Management and Evaluation Division (ALMED), 2nd is the Laboratory Services Division (LSD), and the 1st is the Geomatics and Soil Information Technology Division (GSITD).

Following the Awarding Ceremony was the Launching and Ribbon cutting of the BSWM Map Guidebook: “A Guide to BSWM Map Standards & Symbols.” After which, and to look back to the activities done during the WSD 2021 celebration, an audio-visual presentation was shown to the guests. And to show the nationwide celebration of the event, recorded greetings from partner agencies, associations, groups, institutions, and the BSWM in celebration of the WSD 2022 was also presented.

To officially end the Program, OIC-Assistant Director Bernardo B. Pascua delivered his Closing Message wherein he said that the theme Soils, Where Food Begins reminds us to think of our future. He further reiterated that the soils must be sustained, preserved, and protected.

The theme of this year’s World Soil Day Celebration focused on raising awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, increasing soil awareness, and encouraging societies to improve soil health. The WSD is being celebrated every 5th of December in dedication to His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand.