By ALFRED G. GABOT
Past President, Philippine Agricultural Journalists
QUEZON CITY, Metro Manila – The Philippine Agricultural Journalists (PAJ), in tandem with its partners led by the Department of Agriculture and San Miguel Corporation, concluded its 2019 PAJ SMC Binhi Awards contest for excellence in agricultural journalism with the presentation of winners on September 24, 2020.
Dr. William D. Dar, the Philippines’ agriculture secretary, was the guest of honor and speaker during the event which coincided with the 44th founding anniversary of the PAJ.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in a message during the event, lauded the PAJ for consistently reporting on significant developments in the agro-fishery industries and countryside progress. “Let me thank you for your unceasing commitment as the government’s valuable partner in promoting the advancement of the agriculture sector in the country,” Duterte said.
Lena Johansson, president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) of which the PAJ is a member, also joined the important personalities and officials in lauding the PAJ on its foundation day and Binhi Awards ceremonies through her video message played live during the event on the PAJ Facebook page and that of the Department of Agriculture Facebook page reaching a global audience.
“Because of the pandemic, and the very special situation it entails, we are experiencing severe difficulties and challenges,” Johansson said. “”But in times like this, it is more important than ever to work together and support each other, both professionally and personally.”
“The pandemic has, among a lot of things, stressed the importance of a viable agriculture sector. This also calls for professional and strong agricultural journalism,” she said. “Your work is very important for the farmers, as well as the rest of the society. You should be proud of what you accomplish in your daily working life.”
Johansson added: “Farmers are dependent on the news and knowledge you can offer them. When fewer and fewer people work in agriculture and live on the countryside, agricultural journalists also play a vital role to spread knowledge about farming and food production and build bridges between farmers and consumers.”
In his keynote address, Agriculture Secretary William Dar rode on the crest of an emerging consensus that an agriculture-driven economy is the best strategy to enable the country to rise stronger from the Covid-19 crisis and subsequently get stronger support and a higher 2021 budget from Congress.
During the twin event — 2019 PAJ-SMC Binhi Awards and 44th PAJ anniversary — Secretary Dar thanked members of the media in their continuous support and being “reliable partners” in coping with the continuing changes in the agriculture sector.
He also urged PAJ members to “use the social media as a platform to state their position on key policy issues.”
“In an era of social media and fake news, please continue with your advocacy of reporting and celebrating with us even the smallest milestones in Philippine agriculture. Remain at the forefront of helping secure a bright future for agricultural journalism in the country,” Dar concluded.
The winners who received trophies and cash awards were led by Business Mirror reporter Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas, who was adjudged Best Agricultural Journalist of the Year for the third consecutive year. He also won as Best Agribeat Reporter, the second time in three years. His newspaper Business Mirror’s Agri-Commodities section, edited by Jennifer Ng, was the winner in Best Newspaper Agriculture Section.
Arcalas also won with banking reporter Bianca Cuaresma the Best Agri-Financing Story for “Real Transformation Seen to Boost Efforts to Finance PHL’s Agriculture Sector,” and the SL Agritech Best in Rice Reporting with macroeconomy reporter Cai U. Ordinario, and edited by Senior Editor Dennis D. Estopace.
The Best Climate Change Story award went to Ian Ocampo Flora of Sun Star Pampanga, who was also declared Environment Journalist of the Year, with Jonathan Mayuga of Business Mirror in second place. Mayuga also won for writing the Best Water Sustainability Story
The Best in Agri Tourism reporting went to Henrylito Tacio of the Mindanao newspaper Edge Davao, while veteran photographer Willie Lomibao of Inquirer was cited in the Best Agri Photo category and Mark Anthony Gallibu was cited in the Best Agri Vlogger category.
“Pinoy Scientist,” of Radyo Aguila, hosted by Custer Deocaris, won the Best Radio Program award, while the DA Soccksargen was cited for Best Agri TV program.
The Best Agri Info and Media Campaign went to the Golden Rice Campaign of the Philippine Rice Institute (Philrice), whose magazine was declared Best Agricultural Magazine.