3 Philippines-hosted centers commemorate SEAMEO’s 55th year

  • By Leah Lyn D. Domingo
  • 2 December 2020

3 Philippines-hosted centers commemorate SEAMEO’s 55th year 

The 55th founding anniversary of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), of which the Philippines is a chartered member, was jointly commemorated in a virtual event by three SEAMEO centers based in the country together with the Bangkok-based SEAMEO Secretariat (SEAMES) and the Department of Education (DepEd), Philippines.

Founded on 30 November 1965, SEAMEO has grown from six founding member countries—the Philippines, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand—to 11 current members, which include the 10 ASEAN members plus Timor-Leste. SEAMEO also has eight associate member countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as well as affiliate member institutions. As such, SEAMEO can be considered as one of the most resilient and viable inter-government treaty bodies of nations.

The oldest SEAMEO center—the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) founded on 27 November 1966 and based on the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)—is hosted by the Philippine government along with two other SEAMEO centers, namely, the Regional Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology (INNOTECH) located in the University of the Philippines Diliman and the Regional Centre for Public Health, Hospital Administration, Environmental and Occupational Health (TROPMED Philippines) headquartered in UP Manila.

SEARCA, INNOTECH, and TROPMED Philippines are among the 25 SEAMEO regional centers and one network located in 10 Southeast Asian countries. According to SEAMEO, its “centers and network have been both think tanks and implementing arms of SEAMEO in its own specialty through policy advocacy, technical and consultancy services, as well as capacity building programs and activities, fora, research, and other intellectual and practical platforms and networks.”

“For almost six decades, SEAMEO has been at the forefront of education in the region and beyond,” said Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director.

He added that SEAMEO “has perfectly exemplified the importance of interconnectivity among different sectors and stakeholders of the society while taking multi- and interdisciplinary approaches in dealing with various issues and challenges. It has evolved with the changing times without losing its relevance, making education as an enabling vehicle for growth and sustainability.”

Philippine Education Secretary Leonor Briones congratulated SEAMES and the SEAMEO centers for “the long years of collaboration.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed and encouraged and perhaps even inspired the education sector to develop and innovate ways to resume teaching and learning safely and inclusively. We appreciate the initiatives of the SEAMEO Secretariat and the regional centers in promoting distance learning and providing our teachers with capacity-building webinars this year. And we look forward to more years of partnership with SEAMEO,” Sec. Briones said.

Meanwhile, SEAMES Director Dr. Ethel Agnes P. Valenzuela said “Stronger Together for Quality, Accessible, and Responsive Education” is the theme of the 55th SEAMEO anniversary and remarked that “Indeed, SEAMEO has come a long way since its inception in 1965 and has taken pride of his achievements over the years as Southeast Asia’s longest- running regional organization for promoting quality education, science, and culture.”

“SEAMEO’s strength lies in the 26 regional centers and network in Southeast Asia through programs, projects, and activities that follow the lead of education ministers to support countries in achieving educational objectives, as well as regional vision through bilateral and multilateral programs and activities in and beyond Southeast Asia. I am proud to say that SEARCA, INNOTECH, and TROPMED have contributed a lot to the region through your programs, research, scholarships, and partnerships,” Dr. Valenzuela stressed.

Dr. Vicente Y. Belizario, Jr., TROPMED Philippines Director, said “We realize that our theme for this anniversary—stronger collaboration and cooperation among SEAMEO networks—already offers us an approach in implementing our mandate and addressing the many concerns in these very uncertain times. More than ever, we need to come together as One SEAMEO.”

The need to rely on and share among SEAMEO centers in the face of current challenges, particularly those brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, was also emphasized by Dr. Ramon C. Bacani, INNOTECH Director.

“I do hope we will continue with this spirit of regional cooperation, learning, and sharing from one another in the many activities we will undertake together under SEAMEO… in education, science, and culture,” Dr. Bacani said.

Sec. Briones counseled that “In a world that is advancing towards technological innovations and skills development, it is important to remind ourselves that development does not only pertain to high-rise buildings and working robots. We need to be reminded of inclusive and sustainable development to fully accomplish our development goals.”