As we live by our mandate on the sustainable management of soil and water resources for agriculture towards achieving the Agriculture Department’s goal of “Masaganang Agrikultura, Maunlad na Ekonomiya,” the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA-BSWM) actively participates in activities in the international arena. For one, the DA-BSWM organized, along with the Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI), and the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC), the AFACI-BSWM-FFTC International Experts Symposium on the Development of the Soil Atlas of Asia and National Soil Information Systems. This was held at the BSWM Lopez Convention Hall on 20 June 2024.

Formally opening the Symposium was the Welcome Remarks delivered by Dr. Seol Kuk-Hwan, Senior Deputy Secretary General, AFACI; Dr. Gina P. Nilo, Director, DA-BSWM; Dr. Su-San Chang, Director, FFTC. Highlighting this milestone event was the Keynote Message from the Honorable Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr.

As the first to deliver his Welcome Remarks, Dr. Seol Kuk-Hwan expressed his gratitude to the BSWM and FFTC for organizing such a vital event.  During his message, Dr. Seol Kuk-Hwan emphasized the significance of having a good knowledge on soil especially in the face of the crisis on climate change, stating that “a proper understanding of soil is very important for improving agricultural productivity and sustainable agriculture.” He also manifested his expectations on the Symposium, and his hopes for the attendees to have the opportunity to gain many ideas.

Consequently, DA-BSWM Director Dr. Gina P. Nilo, on her Welcome Remarks, manifested her delight upon witnessing the distinguished gathering of experts both physically present and joining us online, stating that these people are all committed to the advancement of soil science and agricultural sustainability. Director Nilo emphasized that the Symposium reflects the dedication to tackling the urgent issues concerning our soils – issues that are essential to soil health and global food security. “Today holds the promise of motivation, collaboration, and fruitful discussions as we unite to shape the future of our soils and the world. I deeply appreciate each of you for your valuable contributions, wisdom, and unwavering commitment to our common objectives,” she further underscored.

Moreover, on her Welcome Remarks, Dr. Su-San Chang highlighted the importance of the Symposium stating that, “This Symposium marks a significant milestone in our collective journey towards achieving sustainable development goals: helping to ensure food security, combating climate change, and preserving the natural ecosystem that supports our lives.” She further stressed the crucial role of creating a Soil Atlas of Asia in raising awareness about the importance of soil among a wide range of audience.

Highlighting this milestone event, a Keynote Message from the Honorable Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr.  was delivered by the OIC Assistant Secretary for Operations Mr. U-Nichols A. Manalo. The Message which opens about the alarming challenges brought about by the current state of our soils, highlighted the importance of investing in soil health. Thus, emphasizing the 5-point priority agenda in soil and water management. As such, the Secretary’s Message stated that “The Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Soils and Water Management is proud to spearhead the National Soil Health Program (NSHP), which is currently underway and represents a comprehensive approach to enhancing soil health nationwide. This flagship integrates thematic mapping to identify Soil Reference Mapping Units (SRMUs) and establish Soil Health Monitoring Sites (SHMS).” The Honorable Secretary also emphasized that the pressing issue of the soils must be addressed by various key players. Also present in the event was DA Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Atty. Alvin John F. Balagbag

The main part of the Experts Symposium was the discussions of the Resource Speakers through the Five Sessions  Session 1 titled “Advanced Soil Monitoring and Mapping Technology (Utilization of Satellites/UAV images, AI, etc.)” with presentations on “Digital Soil Mapping for Assessing Soil Carbon Storage at the Continental Scale” by Dr. Wartini Ng, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Soil Security within the Faculty of Science, University of Sydney, Australia; “Prediction of Soil Carbon Storage and its Spatial Distribution in Southern Taiwan Using Digital Soil Mapping Techniques” by Dr. Shih Hao Jien, Professor, Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan; and “Evaluating the Usability of Continental and Global Digital Soil Mapping Products” by Dr. Laura Poggio, Senior Digital Soil Mapping and Remote Sensing Expert, World Soil Information (ISRIC), the Netherlands. 

For Session 2 titled “National Soil Mapping Development (Building processes, obstacles, and future),” the presentations focused on “Utilizing Digital Geospatial Processing Techniques for Updating and Enhancement of Philippine Conventional Soil Resources Information” by Dr. Dante E. Margate, Chief, Soils Survey Division, DA-BSWM, Philippines; “From Colonial Surveys to Contemporary Solutions: The Journey of Soil Mapping in Malaysia” by Dr. Marshall Kana Samuel, Senior Research Officer, Soil Sciences, Water and Fertiliser Research Centre, MARDI, Malaysia; and the “History of Korean Soil Survey” by Dr. Yeon Kyu Sonn, Senior Researcher, National Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Korea.

Session 3 focused on the presentations of various posters by Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Taiwan, Philippines.

Session 4 titled “Reinforcement and Utilization of Soil Map (Expansion of data, utilization in agriculture, in particular, to address climate change, etc.) then centered on the following presentations: “Integrating Agricultural Geospatial Data to Evaluate Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration Potential in Taiwan” by Dr.Chien Hui Syu, Associate Research, Agricultural Chemistry Division, Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), Taiwan; “Reinforcement and Utilization of Soil Map” by Mr. Nephtali Morgado, Provincial Government Department Head/ IT Manager, Provincial Information Management Office of the Provincial Government of Agusan del Sur, CARAGA, Philippines; and “Data-intensive Approaches to Updating and Utilizing the Soil Map in Japan” by Dr. Mizuki Morishita, Researcher, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), Japan. 

Lastly, Session 5 focused on General Discussion (Expansion of data, utilization in agriculture, in particular, to address climate change, etc.).

The Experts Symposium officially ended through the Closing Remarks from Dr. Seol Kuk-Hwan, Senior Deputy Secretary General, AFACI; Dr. Gina P. Nilo, Director, DA-BSWM; Dr. Su-San Chang, Director, FFTC where they manifested their gratitude for the success of the event.

The AFACI-BSWM-FFTC activity commenced on 18 June 2024 with the 2024 AFACI-Soil Evaluation Workshop wherein the Reports from the 13 member countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Thailand, and Vietnam) were presented. 

This remarkable activity for our soils was attended by the various Officials and Staff of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization Consultant Dr. Marcos Angelini, Country Principal and Co-Principal Investigators, Resource Persons, and Partners such as the Philippine Soil Partnership (PSP) member from the State University of Apayao.

The Experts Symposium is in line with the celebration of the DA-BSWM 73rd founding anniversary.

(Ara Krizele Alcoriza, Information)

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