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Philippines’ New Agriculture Chief Wants Vibrant Agricultural Reporting

Promotion of excellence in agricultural reporting in the Philippines

QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The Philippines’s new Secretary of Agriculture William Dar has affirmed his support to further promote excellence in agricultural reporting in the Philippines in line with his “Masaganang Ani at Malaking Kita” – New Thinking in Agriculture Program.
Secretary Dar made the assurance during an interaction with the officers and directors of the Philippine Agricultural Journalists Inc. (PAJ) led by its president and veteran journalist, educator and author Alfred G. Gabot, and vice-presidents Noel Reyes and Fermin Diaz.
Over the past years, Secretary Dar, an ardent advocate of research and communications in agriculture, has been supporting the PAJ while in various capacities in government, academia, the private sector and global organizations such as the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in India, which Dr. Dar headed for 14 years.
The PAJ, which is the nation’s oldest organization of agricultural editors, writers, broadcasters and communicators, will celebrate its 44th year with the presentation of the PAJ SMC Binhi Awards as part of the Farmers and Fishermen’s Month celebration led by Secretary Dar and the Department of Agriculture in May 2020.
The launching ceremony was part of the celebration of PAJ as a reactivated member of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) since last July during the IFAJ Congress in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
In his speech during the 2019 Binhi Awards launching, Secretary Dar called on agricultural journalists to help the Department of Agriculture and its agencies in disseminating information, guides and technologies for the benefit of the farmers, fisherfolk and other stakeholders of the agriculture industry.
“We are in one family. Help us share to the public what the DA is doing right now,” Secretary Dar stressed.
Citing his personal story, Dar underscored the importance of journalism in disseminating the results and activities by the department. He said in his core group, he always sees to it that there will be a writer involved to properly disseminate and articulate the information.
He also encouraged journalists to find balance on good and bad news.
In relation to the department’s programs in promoting agriculture to the youth, Dar said the department is looking for any possible additional funds to support its loan assistance for students and new graduates.
He said the program targets to provide loan assistance amounting to P250,000 to P500,000 based on the feasibility studies submitted by young applicants with zero-interest loan payable in five years.
“There really is a need to fund start-up businesses of the youth in agriculture,” he said.
“This is the time to help the department encourage the younger generation to go back into farming,” Dar said
Roman Floresca, PAJ past president and the 2019 Binhi Awards Chairman, said the contest will be expanded to include budding agricultural writers, researchers and communicators in colleges, universities and high schools, special reporting on rice and agritourism reporting. The PAJ will tap the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepED) to co-spearhead the youth awards.
Secretary Dar lauded the PAJ for including the youth in the awards as this supports the DA’s “Ani at Kita” program to encourage the youth to be active in agriculture and take over eventually from the country’s aging farmers and fishers.
He renewed his call for the youngsters in schools and out of school to engage in new thinking in agriculture that ensures bigger “ani” (harvest) and higher “kita” (income) through various programs, support and projects of the DA and its agencies.
Revitalization of agricultural reporting is spearheaded by the PAJ President Alfred Gabot, who is a past president of the National Press Club of the Philippines, and supported by current National Press Club  president Rolando Gonzalo, who is PAJ public relations officer for broadcast; the Philippine Rural Broadcasters Federation led by Dr. Rogelio  Matalang, a member of the PAJ Board of Directors; the different PAJ chapters in Northern Luzon, Pangasinan, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Visayas and Mindanao, among others.
Other PAJ officers are Inez Magbual, treasurer; Ruby Lumongsod, secretary; Aileen Garcia, asst. secretary; Michael Alunan, PRO for print; Thelma Tolentino, auditor; Johnny Goluyogo, Melly Tenorio, Charisma Love Gado Gonzales, and Dr. Rex Navarro.

Binhi Awards. PAJ President Alfred Gabot (right) presents a symbolic PAJ SMC Binhi Awards trophy to Agriculture Secretary William Dar to launch the 2020 PAJ SMC Binhi Awards competition in agricultural reporting.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar (3rd from left) receives a copy of the PAJ SMC Binhi Awards poster from PAJ President Alfred Gabot (3rd from right) as Vice-president Fermin Diaz, other officers and representatives of San Miguel Corp. look on.