The following procedure and requirements is based on the Department Circular No. 01, Series of 2018 (Revised Guidelines for Official Accreditation of Organic Certifying Bodies):

CRITERIA FOR OFFICIAL ACCREDITATION

  1. Must be duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as legal entity in the Philippines;
  2. Must have a Main Office;
  3. Must have an established organic certification program in accordance with the organic certification scheme (see the Department Circular)

NOTE 1 Having one (1) satellite office located in either Luzon, Visayas or Mindanao would be an advantage

NOTE 2 Accreditation to ISO/IEC 17065 with the scope of organic agriculture will be an advantage as this could be used as marketing tool in promoting their services as certifying body and that they could easily apply for other standards, especially international standards, e.g. US NOP standards, JAS, EU Organic, etc.

 

GENERAL PROCEDURES FOR OFFICIAL ACCREDITATION OF OCB

The following outlines the various stages of the official accreditation process:

1.1

Submission of Requirements

The applicant shall submit the duly accomplished application form and its corresponding documentary requirements.

1.2

Application Review

The Accreditation Section of the Organic Agriculture Division of BAFS shall conduct table review of the submitted documents.

1.3

Assessment

(Office & Witness Audits)

The Accreditation Section of the Organic Agriculture Division of BAFS and representative/s from the NCOA-OCB shall carry out the office and witness audits to determine the compliance of the applicant with the official accreditation requirements.

The basis for the assessments or the audit criteria is provided for in the Annex A (Organic certification scheme).

In case of noncompliance/s, the applicant shall be required to provide further elucidation and/or take corrective actions within a specified period of time.

1.4

Evaluation of the Assessment Report and Approval

The office and witness audit report(s) shall be endorsed to the NCOA-OCB for review and evaluation.  After review and evaluation of the NCOA-OCB, the approval in a form of Resolution will be then endorsed to the BAFS Director for the issuance of  official accreditation decision.

1.5

Issuance of  the Official Accreditation Certificate

The BAFS shall issue the Official Accreditation Certificate, accompanied with the Terms and Conditions,  to approved applicant for official accreditation.

1.6

Surveillance

When granted with official accreditation, the OCB shall be subjected to surveillance assessments to ensure the OCB’s continued compliance to standards, this Circular, and the Terms and Conditions.

 

APPLICATION REVIEW AND ASSESSMENT FOR OFFICIAL ACCREDITATION OF OCB

  1. Application for Official Accreditation is made by accomplishing the prescribed application form, written in English and in duplicate copies. Together with the said form, the applicant shall submit the following:
  2. Organizational Profile;
  3. Certified True Copy of the SEC Certificate of Registration together with the Articles of Incorporation and latest by-laws;
  4. Certified True Copy of latest General Information Sheet (GIS) by the SEC;
  5. Copy of Operations Manual including procedures and checklists on Organic Agriculture based on applicable PNS relevant to organic agriculture;
  6. List of Inspectors with their approved scope/s; and
  7. List of certified organic operators compliant with applicable PNS relevant to organic agriculture, if applicable.
  8. If accredited to ISO/IEC 17065, Certified True Copy of ISO/IEC 17065 Accreditation Certificate;
  9. The applicant shall provide declaration, manifested by an authorized signature on the application form, that it agrees to comply with all official accreditation criteria including terms and conditions of the procedure for Official Accreditation, and be subjected to assessment procedures.
  10. The Accreditation Section of the Organic Agriculture Division of BAFS shall conduct a table review to evaluate if the accomplished form and submitted documents are complete. In case additional documents are needed, the Accreditation Section shall inform and require the applicant in writing to submit within a prescribed timeline in order for the application review to proceed. Incomplete submission of requirements shall not be processed pending the submission of lacking documents.
  11. Applicant with valid accreditation to ISO/IEC 17065 from DTI-PAB shall still undergo application and documentary review as basis for official accreditation. In such a case, the process will proceed to the Article VII for the decision-making and granting of Official Accreditation.
  12. An Assessment Team shall conduct office-based audit in order to verify the implementation of the operations manual and procedures and other documents submitted in their place of operation. An office audit report shall be drawn thereafter.
  13. In order to proceed with the witness audit, the Accreditation Section shall issue a Notice of Witness Audit (including assessment team composition and audit schedule) and the Pre-Witness Audit Form to the applicant. Request for reschedule of the conduct of witness audit initiated by the applicant or by BAFS shall only be warranted up to two consecutive requests as long as supported with valid reason/s.
  14. A new team member is nominated from the NCOA-OCB members if the applicant does not approve of any member of the assessment team on the ground of conflict of interest.
  15. An Assessment Team prepares a witness audit plan based on the itinerary of the applicant’s inspectors and provide a copy to the applicant and its inspector/s.
  16. Results of the audit are communicated to the applicant. Annex C (Guidance on classification of findings, timeline for implementation of correction and corrective action by OCBs) shall be followed for the classification of findings and the severity of potential non-compliances (NCs) arising from audits, timeline required to close NCs, and verification of implementation of correction and corrective action by applicant/OCBs.
  17. If there are no major noncompliances found, the applicant is recommended for official accreditation subject to the close-out of any minor noncompliances raised.
  18. When there is one or more major noncompliances raised, the applicant shall be subjected to a follow-up visit or reassessment.
  19. The Assessment Team may recommend denial of official accreditation based on the results of the assessment. Recommendation for denial of official accreditation shall be forwarded to the NCOA-OCB for decision-making.

 

DECISION-MAKING AND GRANTING OF OFFICIAL ACCREDITATION

  1. The following criteria shall be considered when formulating decision on whether to grant official accreditation:
  2. Results of assessments and closure of non-compliances.
  3. For OCB with valid ISO/IEC 17065 accreditation from DTI-PAB, results of application and documentary review shall be the basis for official accreditation.
  4. For OCB undergoing renewal of Official Accreditation, results of validation activities by the OAVT will be taken into consideration during the decision making process.
  5. In carrying out decision-making, the following procedure shall apply:
  6. The BAFS shall organize a NCOA-OCB meeting to deliberate on the recommendation(s) of the Assessment Team.
  7. If neither issues nor noncompliances are raised, or all noncompliances have been addressed by the applicant within the agreed period of time in accordance with Annex C, the NCOA-OCB shall issue a Resolution recommending to the BAFS Director the issuance of Official Accreditation Certificate.
  8. The Certificate shall state the certification scope/s based on Annex A for which the Official Accreditation has been approved, and the effectivity and validity of the official accreditation.
  9. In case of a denied application, the applicant may reapply after one (1) month from the receipt of denied status and shall follow the procedure from Step 1, except when an appeal has been filed and in-process.

 

SURVEILLANCE OF ORGANIC CERTIFYING BODIES

  1. The NCOA-OCB shall conduct office and witness audits for surveillance purposes. Witness audit sample size shall be 5% of the total number of operators or minimum of one (1) operator for each approved scope of an officially accredited OCB.
  2. Surveillance for officially accredited OCB shall be conducted annually within the validity of the official accreditation, except for OCBs with valid accreditation to ISO/IEC 17065 which shall be conducted every other year within the validity of the official accreditation without coinciding with the surveillance of their respective accreditation bodies.
  3. The surveillance witness audits shall cover a representative range of inspectors of officially accredited OCBs (for crop production, livestock, processing, etc.) and the different types of operators (individual or group).
  4. The operators for surveillance witness audits shall be a representative sample and its selection shall be risk-based and done at random.
  5. In the case of reports of frauds, mislabeling and other complaints, BAFS shall conduct necessary action depending on the nature of reported case.

 

SUSPENSION OF OFFICIAL ACCREDITATION

  1. Official accreditation is subject to suspension based on any of the following grounds:
    • Failure to comply with the current or revised official accreditation guidelines;
    • Failure to comply with the Terms and Conditions set forth for the official accreditation;
    • Systemic failure of the operations manual or implementation that demonstrates inability to comply with the regulations; 
    • Failure to close out a previously issued noncompliance, within a prescribed time period;
    • Unjustified refusal of the officially accredited OCB to allow the assessment team to access the premises, facilities, records and personnel, as may be necessary, for the conduct of assessments/surveillance;
    • Deliberate violation of the regulations of the official accreditation, including but not limited to:
      • Engagement in organic agriculture production during the lifetime of the official accreditation status as OCB;
      • Deviation of operations from the approved scope/s for certification (including deviations from the declared technical and geographical scope of operation); and
      • Provision of any kind of consultancy services to certification applicants.
    • Violation of the non-transferability condition of the Official Accreditation Certificate;
    • Falsification or concealment of records;
    • Request for voluntary suspension by an Officially Accredited OCB if it is temporarily unable to comply with the official accreditation requirements. Request for a voluntary suspension during the period that an assessment is being carried out by the BAFS and NCOA-OCB is not allowed; and
    • Request by the officially accredited OCB to voluntary end its official accreditation, or part of its approved scope/s for certification.
  2. In case of validated report/s or complaints following the grounds for suspension specified in Section 1 of Article XI, the BAFS through the NCOA-OCB, shall conduct an investigation. Additionally, BAFS can conduct its own investigation even without formal complaints (motu propio).
  3. If warranted, the official accreditation or any of its approved certification scope/s may be suspended or revoked based on the results of the investigation of the BAFS through the NCOA-OCB.
  4. The order of suspension shall be effective and executory immediately upon proof of receipt of the notification issued by BAFS by the officially accredited OCB. The suspension shall be for a maximum period of six (6) months, subject to adjustments depending on the compliance and implementation of corrective action of the officially accredited OCB. However, failure of the officially accredited OCB to undertake and implement appropriate corrective actions within the suspension period shall result in the revocation of the Official Accreditation Certificate or any of its approved scope/s for certification.
  5. Once a decision to move forward with suspension has been made, the officially accredited OCB will receive a written notice stating that its official accreditation or any of its approved certification scope/s has been suspended. The notice will generally contain the following elements:
    • Statement of reason/s for such decision; and
    • Notification that the suspended officially accredited OCB has the right to pursue an appeal for reconsideration following the procedures as stated in Clause 1.2 of Section 1, Article XIII of this Circular.
  6. During the suspension period, the officially accredited OCB shall not be allowed to:
    • accept and process new application/s for the suspended scope;
    • accept, process, certify, and issue new certificate/s, in case of suspension of the whole official accreditation.
  7. However, applications for other scopes not covered by the suspension, and those on-going applications received prior the effectivity of the suspension may still be processed by the officially accredited OCB.
  8. In order to process request for reconsideration of lapsed official accreditation, the applicant must complete the application process.
  9. The BAFS shall notify interested parties and the public of these final decisions and its status through suitable media.

 

REVOCATION OF OFFICIAL ACCREDITATION

  1. Official accreditation is subject to revocation based on any of the following grounds:
    • Failure to comply with the current or revised official accreditation guidelines;
    • Failure to comply with the Terms and Conditions set forth for the official accreditation;
    • Systemic failure of the operations manual or implementation that demonstrates inability to comply with the regulations;
    • Failure to close out previously issued noncompliance/s, within a prescribed time period;
    • Unjustified refusal of the officially accredited OCB to allow the assessment team to access the premises, facilities, records and personnel, as may be necessary, for the conduct of surveillance;
    • Deliberate violation of the regulations of the official accreditation, including but not limited to:
      • Engagement in organic agriculture production during the lifetime of the official accreditation status as OCB;
      • Deviation of operations from the approved scope/s for certification (including deviations from the declared technical and geographical scope of operation); and
      • Provision of any kind of consultancy services to certification applicants.
    • Violation of the non-transferability condition of the Official Accreditation Certificate;
    • Falsification or concealment of records;
    • Request by the officially accredited OCB to voluntary end its official accreditation;
    • Failure to implement corrective action to lift a declared suspension; and
    • Recurring suspension of any of the scopes within the validity of official accreditation.
  2. In case of validated report/s or complaints following the grounds for revocation specified in Section 1 of Article XII, the BAFS through the NCOA-OCB, shall conduct an investigation. Additionally, BAFS can conduct its own investigation even without formal complaints (motu propio).
  3. If warranted, the official accreditation or any of its approved certification scope/s may be revoked based on the results of the investigation of the BAFS through the NCOA-OCB.
  4. The order of revocation shall be effective and executory immediately upon proof of receipt of the notification issued by BAFS by the officially accredited OCB.
  5. Once a decision to move forward with revocation has been made, the officially accredited OCB will receive a written notice stating that its official accreditation or any of its approved certification scope/s has been revoked. The notice will generally contain the following elements:
    • Statement of reason/s for such decision; and
    • Notification that the revoked officially accredited OCB has the right to pursue an appeal for reconsideration following the procedures as stated in Clause 1.2 of Section 1, Article XIII of this Circular.
  6. In order to process request for reconsideration of lapsed official accreditation, the applicant must complete the application process as stipulated in Article V and VI of this Circular.
  7. The BAFS shall remove the OCB’s name from all the published list of officially accredited OCB and shall immediately cancel the official accreditation certificate of the OCB.
  8. The BAFS shall notify interested parties and the public of these final decisions and its status through suitable media.

 

VALIDITY OF THE OFFICIAL ACCREDITATION OF OCB

  1. The validity of the official accreditation shall be five (5) years.
  2. The BAFS shall notify the officially accredited OCB to apply for renewal of official accreditation, six (6) months prior to the expiration of its official accreditation.
  3. The rights and privileges as an officially accredited OCB shall not be transferable.

 

CHANGE IN CERTIFICATION SCOPE OF OCB

  1. If an officially accredited OCB applies for any change, either extension or reduction of their approved scope/s for certification, the OCB shall submit an application for change of scope including necessary documentation to substantiate the request to enable the NCOA-OCB for evaluation and, if deemed necessary by the NCOA-OCB, for conduct of assessments.
  2. Assessment is carried out as part of the surveillance visit or assessment for renewal. The expiry date of the additional scope/s shall be identical to the expiry date of the original certificate of official accreditation. The original certificate, Terms and Conditions and other associated document of Official Accreditation are revised to include the extended scope/s.
  3. The BAFS may decide to reduce the scope of official accreditation to exclude those parts where the OCB has persistently failed to comply with these guidelines and with the Terms and Conditions of the official accreditation, including competence.
  4. Final review of the recommendation for extension or reduction of scopes shall be done by the NCOA-OCB if the assessment is carried out as part of the reassessment or by the BAFS Accreditation Section if the assessment is carried out as part of surveillance assessment.

CONFIDENTIALITY AND IMPARTIALITY

  1. All personnel involved in the Official Accreditation of OCB shall adhere to the principles of confidentiality and impartiality.
  2. Information on production practices, ingredients, customer list, complaint log, etc., submitted by applicants for approval shall not be released in any form to any party or to the public in general without written permission from the applicant or officially accredited OCB.
  3. However, the following general information may be made accessible to the public:
  4. Name, address and contact details of the OCB;
  5. Effectivity date and validity of the official accreditation;
  6. Approved scope of official accreditation;
  7. List of operators with approved certification including the scope, validity, products and area covered, and any other details that may be released for public access;
  8. Any information to comply with a court order; and
  9. Any information to comply with a request from the NCOA-OCB, investigating an alleged complaint.

TRANSITORY PROVISIONS

  1. The officially accredited OCBs shall be given a transition period of one (1) year upon registration of the PNS relevant to organic agriculture to the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS) of the Department of Trade and Industry to implement the registered standard. The previously issued PNS will still be effective during the remaining period of the transition period.
  2. The officially accredited OCBs should have a mechanism in place to inform its clients that of a newly registered PNS and the transition period.

 

The full copy of the Department Circular No. 01, Series of 2018 can be downloaded using the link below:

Department Circular 1 - Revised Guidelines for Official Accreditation of Organic Certifying Bodies_17Jan2018 2.pdf