LOS BAÑOS, Laguna: University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)'s lone summa cum laude graduate underscored the role of agriculturists in seeking ways to ensure food security in his valedictory message during the 45th UPLB Commencement Exercises.
Arnel Villancio Jr., who received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree and hails from Antipolo, Rizal, said farmers, not agriculturists, feed the world, but stressed that "the responsibility of agriculturists is to continuously find ways for the world to feed itself."
Dr. Gil Saguiguit Jr., director of the UPLB-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), affirmed Villancio's view of agriculture.
Saguiguit noted agriculture has evolved from the old concept of ox-and-plow farming to a dynamic field that employs modern technologies and business practices, and is one of the most important sectors in the economy.
He said the 27 UPLB graduates were part of the 50 SEARCA scholars who obtained their Masters and PhD degrees in various specialized fields of agriculture and related disciplines.
The 23 other SEARCA scholars completed their post-graduate studies overseas at the Tokyo University of Agriculture (Tokyo NODAI); Universiti Putra Malaysia; Universitas Gadjah Mada or Institut Pertanian Bogor, both in Indonesia; or Kasetsart University, Chiang Mai University or Khon Kaen University, all in Thailand.
The degree programs of the 50 newly-graduated SEARCA scholars were in the various specialized fields of agriculture and related disciplines.
These include agriculture, agronomy, plant breeding, animal science, horticulture, entomology, plant pathology, soil science, agricultural systems management, food science and technology, agricultural economics, agricultural engineering, forestry, rural development management, rural sociology, extension education, environmental science, natural resource conservation and information technology for natural resources management.
Of the 35 Masters and 15 PhD graduates, 25 were supported by the joint collaboration with the International Development Center of Canada, while six were supported by the German Academic Exchange Service, and one by the UC-Tokyo NODAI joint scholarship.
During a testimonial program honoring SEARCA graduating scholars, Saguiguit enjoined them to put their knowledge and skills to good use for the benefit of their respective families, home institutions and countries.
Saguiguit also asked the new graduates to remember SEARCA and "take every opportunity to support and contribute to the center's mandate and development goals."
The graduates joined the pool of some 1,400 SEARCA graduate alumni spread across Southeast Asia. Among them is Philippine Competition Commission Chairman Arsenio Balisacan, who was guest speaker at the 2017 UPLB hooding and recognition rites.
A former SEARCA Director, Balisacan was pleased to hear that the center's graduate education program continues to contribute significantly to the capacity development needs of Southeast Asia.
In his keynote address, Balisacan reminded the graduates that with their higher education, they now have "a greater capacity and more competence to contribute to the perpetual task of nation-building."
With it, he said, comes a duty to use such position to "act nobly and rightly" for they owe even the poorest of society who subsidized their education with resources that could have otherwise been spent for public goods that fulfilled their basic needs.
Filipinos who finish their post-graduate studies related to agriculture are usually offered jobs overseas where they could earn up to 10 times what they could earn in the Philippines. Many, however, choose to serve the country.