Gregorio reappointed as SEARCA director

DIRECTOR Glenn Gregorio of the Philippine Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has been reappointed for another three-year term effective May 1, 2022.

Endorsed by the SEARCA Governing Board (SGV) and Education Secretary Leonor Briones for a second three-year term, Gregorio's reappointment was approved and signed by Singapore Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is also the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Council president.

SEAMEO Council (SEAMEC) is the highest policymaking body of the organization composed of the Education ministers of the 11 member-countries such as Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.

Gregorio is an eminent rice scientist, an academician at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of the Philippines, and professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

Hosted by the Philippine government and based in Los Baños, Laguna, SEARCA is mandated to serve the agricultural and rural development needs of Southeast Asian countries. It was established 55 years ago and is one of the oldest centers of excellence of SEAMEO.

At a town hall meeting attended by SEARCA staff, scholars and SGV chair and UPLB Chancellor Jose Camacho Jr. held on May 2, Gregorio cited some of the gains during his first term under the banner of Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN) of SEARCA's 11th Five-Year Plan (FYP) from 2020 to 2025.

He said SEARCA reached new heights – better, bigger, and smarter – in terms of both its programs and organizational development and changes for the better started within the organization and these ranged from enhanced staff compensation and career paths to an integrated monitoring evaluation and learning system to better track and make use of the center's gains.

"SEARCA also became better in strengthening community relations and engagement through outreach activities branded as SEARCAlinga initiatives that have benefitted over a thousand staff, scholars, frontliners, mothers, children, senior citizens as well as typhoon victims," Gregorio said.

He said changes that corresponded to bigger things for SEARCA included more partnerships forged with various entities that include international organizations, government agencies, academic and research institutions, and the private sector.

Gregorio said two more Philippine universities were admitted as new members of the expanding SEARCA-established Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources under his watch.

"With the implementation of the Leveling-Up Philippine Higher Education Institutions in Agriculture, Fisheries, and Natural Resources or LevelUPHEI AFAR project funded by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), SEARCA has also been reaching more Philippine universities in terms of training programs," he added.

In Palawan's Busuanga Island and Cambodia, SEARCA is also upscaling its School-plus-Homes Gardens Project or S+HGP adding the elements of biodiversity and entrepreneurship to the package.

According to Gregorio, some of the smarter ways SEARCA embarked on to reach its stakeholders, including the youth to entice them to engage in agriculture were the new SEARCA Grants for Research towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions; SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation, an interactive museum; and partnership for the Innovation Olympics 2.0, an agri hackathon for the youth to develop innovative solutions for the farming sector,

He noted that due to the pandemic, the SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement (SOLVE) was launched to offer webinars and as a platform for forums, roundtable discussions and conferences.

Aligned with SEARCA's 11th FYP focused on ATTAIN with the end view of directly benefitting farmers and farming families, Gregorio said there were 41 SOLVE webinars conducted so far which highlight specific concrete and innovative actions being implemented on the ground.

He stressed time and again that the youth possess massive power to advocate for change and to hold decision-makers accountable.

With this, Gregorio's advocacy gave rise to the Young Forces for Agricultural Innovation or #Y4AGRI as SEARCA's banner youth program, and the SEARCA Youth Ambassadors Platform composed of young SEARCA staff who organized a virtual youth camp, the highly interactive virtual youth festival dubbed Pista ng Pagkain at Kabataang Pinoy (Pistang PagKaPinoy), and SEARCArunungan para sa SEARCAbataan webinars.

In his first term as SEARCA director, Gregorio was appointed as a United Nations Food Systems Champion, president of the Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania until 2023, and chairperson of the CHEd Technical Panel for Agriculture until 2024. He was also named one of the 2021 Filipino Faces of Biotechnology in the Philippines by the Department of Agriculture.

Gregorio served IRRI for almost 30 years, including a five-year stint as rice breeder in Africa based at Africa Rice Centre station at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria in 2004 to 2009 before his appointment at SEARCA.

In 2004, he was a recipient of The Outstanding Young Men and the Outstanding Young Scientist awards, and Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh Medal Award in 2012.