Last 17-18 November 2021, the DTI-Bureau of Philippine Standards (DTI-BPS) hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference on Pre-packaged Food Packaging and Labelling via virtual platform and live at The Peninsula Manila Hotel in Makati, Philippines. The conference was attended by more than 190 participants from 17 APEC member economies including Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, Chile, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States of America and Viet Nam.

The DTI-BPS is the country’s focal point to the APEC Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC) which was established to help reduce the negative effects that differing standards and conformance arrangements have on trade and investment flows in the Asia-Pacific Region. The APEC Conference aims to further one of the priority actions under the Boracay Action Agenda (BAA) to Globalize Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) - intensifying information exchange on food packaging and labeling requirements, and undertake regular stock-take initiatives and capacity building for the compliance of MSMEs, recognizing the diverse requirements on pre-packaged food packaging and labelling that significantly hinders MSMEs from entering the global market.

The two-day conference was hosted by Ms. Ma. Flordeliza C. Leong of Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. and participated by several speakers from the different APEC member economies – with DTI-Consumer Protection Group (DTI-CPG) Undersecretary Atty. Ruth B. Castelo opening the event with a keynote message. “We are confident that through APEC leadership as a key enabler of trade and investment, we are in the path of achieving a sustainable and inclusive APEC region. While we continue to live in the midst of a global crisis, may we all continue to work hand-in-hand, so we can strengthen our ties in trade and industry around the world,” Usec. Castelo said.

DTI-Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo during her opening and keynote message

“It is undeniable that Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are considered to be integral parts of economic development. MSMEs can provide mass opportunities and contributions in the region if only assisted with the right initiatives, such as this event, to further enhance their knowledge, capabilities and skills,” said BPS Director Neil P. Catajay as he provided everyone with an overview of what they can expect from the conference.

BPS Director Neil P. Catajay during his delivery of the objectives and overview of the conference

The conference consisted of a forum and exhibit. The forum served as a platform for different resource speakers from the International Trade Center, Codex Alimentarius Committee, World Packaging Organization, Design Center of the Philippines, APEC-Policy Support Unit (APEC-PSU), different APEC member economies, OTI Philippines, 1Export, Hernan Corporation Sdn Bhd, RPO Fine Food Corporation, ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance, to relay and discuss the latest updates on packaging and labelling requirements across the globe; packaging and labelling innovations and best practices; packaging and labelling requirements of the different APEC member economies; and key results and findings of the pre-conference survey on APEC packaging and labelling requirements for pre-packaged food products.

Day 1 Speakers (from left to right, top to bottom row)
Ms. Isabel Meriales (Design Center of the Philippines), Mr. Phelan Apostol (FDA-DOH), Mr. Frederic Couty (International Trade Center),
Ms. Hannah Rabaja (FDA-DOH, Codex Alimentarius Committee), Dr. Akhmad Bayhaqi (APEC-PSU), and BPS Director Neil Catajay

Day 2 Speakers (from left to right, top to bottom row)
Ms. Jiraratana Thesasilpa (Thailand), Mr. Petr Bobrovskiy (Russia), Dr. Romulo Romero (Philippines), Ms. Nur Liyana Mohamad Nizar (Malaysia),
Ms. Teresa LO Yee Yi (Singapore), Ms. Kathreen Ann Ocampo (Philippines), Mr. Douglas Balentine, PhD (United States), Mr. Hangyu Yu (China), and Ms. Miwa Ichijo (Japan)

The online exhibit intended to showcase the latest design trends and innovations on food packaging and labelling was participated by Filipinas de Oro, Vjandep, Noceda Bakery, Malagos Agri Ventures Corporation, J. Emmanuel Pastries, Le Potager Inc., Fisher Farms Inc., Filpet Inc., PET Value Philippines Inc., Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI), Taurean Bakeshop & Café, and Ianna Enterprise.

Virtual Exhibition Hall

Several key points raised during the two-day conference led to the conclusion that standards and requirements on packaging and labelling continue to evolve as developments arise from the latest design trends, updates on technology, and scientific knowledge;  with these advancements continually taking place, it is crucial that all member economies across the region continuously collaborate and intensify information exchange on food packaging and labelling requirements and undertake regular stock take initiatives and capacity building for the compliance of MSMEs as such efforts of raising awareness and promoting transparency will facilitate inclusion of the MSMEs in the global economy.

In his delivery of the 2015 and 2020 APEC Survey results, Dr. Romulo Romero of OTI Philippines reported that packaging and labelling requirements of member economies have evidently changed in the span of five years, especially on the mandatory product label information and complete translation of the product label that need to be in acceptable/required language/s.  He also recommended that APEC continue to provide a forum for members to exchange relevant information regarding food packaging and labelling, especially on the latest innovation and trends in sustainable packaging and food labelling and promote the integration of MSMEs by providing capacity building support to the member economies.

Each conference day was concluded with a panel discussion that centered on the APEC work towards internationalization of MSMEs and navigating non-tariff measures and challenges and opportunities in food packaging and labelling requirements across the world and in APEC, respectively.  As she closed the panel discussion for the second day, DTI-CPG Asst. Secretary Ann Claire C. Cabochan emphasized the need to evaluate the impacts of packaging and labelling materials on the environment. “Indeed, the matter of packaging of food products must be able to hurdle, not only technical requirements, but also ensure safety and differing levels of handling along the way. But it must always be considered that when we do use packaging, we must also look at how it impacts on our environment, because if we only look at what we are going to eat, when we do not have a planet to live in, the food is going to be useless,” Asec. Cabochan said.

Panel discussion facilitators (from left to right)
BSMED Director Jerry T. Clavesillas (Day 1 facilitator) and DTI-CPG Asst. Secretary Ann Claire C. Cabochan (Day 2 facilitator)

The APEC Conference on Pre-Packaged Food Packaging and Labelling was formally closed by DTI-Trade Promotions Group Undersecretary Abdulgani Macatoman. “We must act collectively to reduce technical barriers to trade and enhance market access through standards and conformance by actively participating to international standardization activities and regulatory processes. Through APEC, we can promote and support initiatives, such as this conference, to exchange important information that ensure transparent trade environment for a greater economic cooperation,” Usec. Macatoman underscored.

The DTI-BPS is the National Standards Body authorized to promulgate Philippine National Standards (PNS).  PNS are voluntary in nature and may be used as reference by any interested parties. The conformance to PNS or parts thereof becomes mandatory only when the same is used as reference in Technical Regulations issued by regulatory authorities such as the DTI.

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