Gov't reconstitutes tech panel for agriculture amid COVID-19 pandemic

To make the farm sector a poverty reduction tool during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine government has reconstituted a technical panel for agriculture, which will be led by the chief of international think tank Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

A statement showed that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has recently appointed SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio as the new chairperson of the Philippines’ Technical Panel for Agriculture (TPA).

CHED Chairman J. Prospero E. De Vera III said the reconstitution of technical panels is anchored on the need to align the country’s higher education to standards, priorities and needs of a particular sector based on international, regional, and national settings.

As agriculture remains a major engine of economic development in most Southeast Asian countries, Gregorio reiterated the strategic position of higher education institutions (HEIs) to pursue initiatives on food and nutrition security.

“Agricultural modernization is essential in the Philippines’ strategy for inclusive growth. The mandate of many public sector higher education institutions is to create a pool of skilled workers to increase the competitiveness of our agriculture and fisheries sector,” Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) President Gilberto Llanto said.

In 2007, a number of economists proposed to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo three major components of the agriculture education reform, namely policy research, institutional capacity enhancement for entrepreneurship, and support to agri-enterprise building in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

This proposal, according to them, recognizes that universities have a crucial role to play in developing the agriculture sector.

This, since apart from being the knowledge and resource base in their localities, the SUCs are in a strategic position to convince graduates to become champions in fueling development and sustainability in the countryside.

The proposal to Arroyo was supported by experts both from PIDS and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

Right now, Llanto said the decline in the skilled labor force arising from a decrease in Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources (AFNR) enrollment will make it hard for the Philippines to unlock its potential in growing the farm sector.

Gregorio said the country needs to be agile in designing curricular and extension programs, especially when it comes to technology transfer from the hands of scientists to farmers, in order to produce professionals who can help the country achieve its food and nutrition security goals.