Outgoing Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has been awarded the Ordre du Mérite Agricole (Order of Agricultural Merit) with the rank of Officier (Officer) by the French government in recognition of her decades-long commitment in supporting the agricultural sector and promoting food culture in the Philippines.
Created in 1883 by then French Agricultural Minister Jules Méline, the Order of Agricultural Merit is an honorific order conferred by the French government to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the agricultural and rural sector.
Recently appointed Deputy Governor by the Central Bank of the Philippines, Romulo-Puyat served as Undersecretary for Special Concerns, Administration and Finance, and Agribusiness and Marketing at the Department of Agriculture from 2007 to 2018.
As Tourism Secretary from 2018 to 2022, Romulo-Puyat continued to place agriculture as a priority through the promotion of agricultural and farm tourism, cultural heritage, and local gastronomy.
“On behalf of the French government, it is my honor to confer this prestigious award to Bernadette Romulo-Puyat who has shown great commitment, perseverance, and openness to collaborate throughout her career in service of the Filipino people and of the agricultural sector in the Philippines,” French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz said in her remarks during the awarding ceremony held at the French Residence in Makati City last June 7.
The French Ambassador cited Romulo-Puyat’s numerous contributions to Philippine agriculture, particularly in promoting Filipino agricultural products locally and abroad, supporting gender-inclusive agriculture, expanding and strengthening links between farmers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and distributors, and encouraging the adoption of modern techniques in the agricultural sector.
“Seeing firsthand the issues and concerns that our farmers and fisherfolk encountered on a daily basis, from getting their produce or seafood to the market, gaining ready access to credit, or needing to increase yields or efficiency, my colleagues and I went to such great lengths to bring greater attention to the country’s agricultural products, helping to give them the support they need, whether from a financial, marketing, or capacity-building standpoint, in order to boost their standard of living and sustain their livelihoods for the years to come,” Romulo-Puyat said in her speech.
“I share this award with the people of the Philippines, most especially our farmers and fisherfolk, without whom we would not be standing here today,” she added.
As France and the Philippines celebrate 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, Romulo-Puyat was also recognized for her contributions to deepening French-Philippine cooperation in the areas of organic farming and risk management and in promoting exchanges of culinary traditions between the two countries.
“For years, France has been one of our largest trading partners. We have also benefitted greatly from an exchange of best agricultural practices and technological know-how. As our two nations celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations in 2022, it is my wish that this bond only grows deeper and stronger than ever before,” Romulo-Puyat added.
In 2017, a bilateral cooperation agreement was signed to consolidate institutional relations between France’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture by strengthening agricultural and technical cooperation in specific sectors and areas of common interest. In the same year, the Department of Agriculture and the French Embassy in Manila jointly organized “Philippine Harvest Meets Bon Appetit,” a food fair showcasing organic and artisanal Filipino and French food products.