AWARDEE. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (middle), her daughter Maia Puyat (left), and French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz. The French government awarded the Order of Agricultural Merit to Romulo-Puyat last June 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy of French Embassy in Manila)

MANILA – The French government has conferred to outgoing Tourism secretary and now Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) deputy governor Bernadette Romulo-Puyat an agricultural merit award in recognition of her decades-long support to the sector and commitment to promoting food culture in the Philippines.

The Ordre du Mérite Agricole (Order of Agricultural Merit) with the rank of Officier (Officer) was created in 1883 by then-French Agricultural Minister Jules Méline for individuals who have made "outstanding contributions to the agricultural and rural sector."

French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz presented the insignia to Romulo-Puyat on June 7 in a ceremony at her residence in Makati City, the embassy said Thursday.

Boccoz said Romulo-Puyat had contributed to the development of France-Philippines agriculture cooperation, including organic farming and risk management, as then Agriculture Undersecretary for Special Concerns.

The envoy also hailed her role in promoting agricultural tourism, cultural heritage, and local gastronomy when she led the Department of Tourism (DOT).

"Farm tourism is a channel to reach food sufficiency and additional income for farm workers, and it is also a way to avoid damage to the environment and promote a more sustainable and responsible tourism by focusing on food. Because food is, indeed, for Ms. Romulo-Puyat, 'the one resource that draws people together and creatively connects us,'" Boccoz said.

“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,” she added.

Romulo-Puyat thanked the French government for its support of the Philippines' agriculture 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.

Recently appointed as deputy governor of the BSP, Romulo-Puyat served as Agriculture Undersecretary for Special Concerns, Administration and Finance, and Agribusiness and Marketing from 2007 to 2018, and DOT Secretary from 2018 to 2022. (PNA)