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(Adapted from the Convention on Biological Diversity website, http://www.cbd.int)

What is Biosafety Clearing-House Mechanism?

The Biosafety Clearing-House (BCH) is an information-exchange mechanism that provides open and easy access to key information about Living Modified Organisms (LMOs).

What is the Role of the BCH?

(a) To facilitate the exchange of scientific, technical, environmental and legal information on, and experience with, living modified organisms; and,

(b) To assist Parties to implement the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

What is the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety?

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a supplemental agreement of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP) on 22 January 2000 to protect biodiversity from the potential risks posed by LMOs resulting from modern biotechnology.

What is the purpose of the BCH and why is the BCH important?

BCH is the only means through which Parties can provide certain information required under the Protocol, including information provided by Parties for the advance informed agreement procedure.

The BCH provides the mechanism by which Parties are informed about final decisions regarding domestic use (including placing on the market) of LMOs that may be subject to transboundary movement for food, feed or for processing.

How does the BCH Work?

· Governments need to put in place lines of communication and information exchange to ensure that information that should be made available through the BCH is placed on the BCH in a timely and appropriate fashion.

· The development of the BCH is to be guided by the principle of inclusiveness, transparency and equity, and is to be open to all governments.

· A party must nominate a national focal point for the BCH (or institutional focal point).

What are the benefits from the BCH?

· Access information about the national laws, regulations and guidelines of other Parties; and information about the decisions and assessments of other countries relating to specific LMOs.

· Ensure, by posting up-to-date information on the BCH, that all potential exporters of LMOs to their country, or those who wish to transport LMOs across their territory, are aware of their national regulatory requirements.

· Access information about capacity-building and other assistance available to support implementation of the Protocol.

· Ensure that the relevant authorities in other countries can quickly find out who to inform in the event of an accidental movement of LMOs into their territory.

What are the obligations regarding posting and updating information on the BCH?

· Make specific information through the BCH.

· Adopt further decisions in future regarding operational and technical aspects of the BCH.

· Monitor any future decisions of the governing body of the Protocol which requires or requests additional information to be made available to the BCH.

Who can access the BCH?

Information in the BCH is open and accessible to all interested parties.

Who can put information on the BCH?

· Information that goes onto the BCH may originate from different government departments or agencies.

· Registering and updating information on the BCH is restricted to authorized users [e.g. officially nominated representatives (National Focal Point (NFP) for BCH)].

· The Secretariat of the Protocol is in charge of maintaining lists of designated NFPs and Competent National Authorities (CNAs) for the Protocol and making this information publicly available to all other Parties on the BCH.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BCH PILIPINAS

What is BCH Pilipinas?

· It is a central repository of all biosafety related information generated from the NCBP and CNAs (DA, DENR, DOH, DOST).

· It serves as an information exchange venue for providers and users of biosafety information.

What does the BCH logo symbolize?

· The BCH Pilipinas logo was patterned from the CBD logo.

· The logo represents the colors of the flag of the Republic of the Philippines (blue, red, yellow and white) and green representing nature and life.

· The Pilipinas in the BCH logo is written in Alibata. The Alibata or Baybayin (also known as the Tagalog script) is pre-hispanic writing system that originated from the Javanese script old Kawi. The writing system is a member of the Brahmic family, and an offshoot of the Sanskrit alphabet. It continued to be in use during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines up until the late 19th century (http://alibata.com). Variant of it are still used in parts of Mindoro and Palawan, and it is also being increasingly used by Filipino youth as a way to express their identity (http://fatoprofugus.net).

· The Book Pinadaling Pag-aaral ng Katutubong Abakadang Pilipino by Ricardo Mendoza was used as reference for writing the Alibata characters in the logo.

What are the CNAs and their roles?

The CNAs are the Government Departments involved in the implementation of the regulation of LMOs.

1. Department of Science and Technology

Responsible for the review and assessment of LMOs intended for contained use (laboratory, screen house, green house and confined test).

2. Department of Agriculture

Responsible for the regulation of plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology, fisheries and other aquatic resources, domesticated animals and biological products used for animal husbandry or veterinary purposes and genetically modified biological control agents.

3. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Responsible for the regulation of LMOs intended for bioremediation, the improvement of forest genetic resources, and wildlife genetic resources, applications of modern biotechnology with potential impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The DENR ensures that environmental assessments are done and impacts are identified in biosafety decisions.

4. Department of Health

Responsible for the regulation of food, including drugs (biopharmaceuticals), cosmetics and medical devices derived from products of modern biotechnology. The DOH ensures that environmental health impact assessments are reviewed and evaluated for biosafety decisions when applicable.

How can I submit information to the BCH PILIPINAS?

Any biosafety related information maybe submitted to the following:

· DOST - DOST Committee on Biosafety on information related to regulated articles intended for contained use (laboratory, screen house and confined test).

· DA - Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) on information related to plant and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) for information on GM animals, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for information on GM fish and other aquatic resources.

· DENR-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau on information related to regulated articles intended for bioremediation, the improvement of forest genetic resources, and wildlife genetic resources.

· DOH-Bureau of Food and Drugs on information related to foods, including drugs (biopharmaceuticals), cosmetics and medical devices derived from products of modern biotechnology.

How frequent is the information updating in the BCH PILIPINAS?

· Updating of information is done weekly while information on the newly approved regulated articles are posted as soon as they are available.

What is BCH Pilipinas?

· The information coming from the CNAs are submitted to the National Focal Point (NFP) and forwarded to the BCH Central Portal as shown below.

Who is the NFP?

· The Secretariat of the NCBP is the NFP for the Philippines. The NFP convenes the BCH Task Force to validate the information before uploading in the BCH central portal; coordinate with CNAs on all matters pertaining to BCH Pilipinas; and, liaise with the CBD Secretariat regarding the updates of implementation of the BCH.