By Matilde Maunahan.
The Philippine Agricultural Journalists, Inc. (PAJ), established on September 10, 1976, is the third and only existing local group of agriculture writers in the Philippines. The second oldest organization of journalists in the country (next only to the National Press Club), it was formed by a group of newsmen and information writers including Ching Ilagan; Max Ballesteros; Jindra Demetrio; Rudy Fernandez; Sanny Galvez; Francis de Guzman; Felix Librero; Francisco Rey Pacheco; Larry Matienzo, Jr.; Perla Mojica; Bernardita Quimpo; Reynaldo Radan Rosemarie de los Reyes; the late Mario Guese Tungol; Benjamin Martinez; and the late Zosimo Ma. Pablico, the man who suggested the association’s name. Balita’s Ching Ilagan became the PAJ’s first president.
The organization aims to: 1) unite the country’s agricultural writers and communicators, 2) strengthen the agricultural journalism profession through seminars and workshops, 3) contribute to agricultural development through the dissemination of vital and relevant information, 4) help improve the communication system for the agriculture and food industries in accordance with the ethics and standards of journalism, and 5) help create an atmosphere for better understanding among the stakeholders of agricultural development, specifically the farmers, government and consumers.
The PAJ has evolved into an organization imbued with social goals and responsibilities, foremost of which is an advocacy towards policy reforms in the pursuit of rural-based sustainable development. It envisions the broad agriculture sector, including the environment and agrarian sectors, to take center stage in sustained development. This media-based organization believes that it should maintain its relative objectivity by encouraging debates and critical reportage on issues affecting agriculture, environment and agrarian reform. It aims to serve as catalyst in the process of debates and consensus-building, whereby people are informed of facts, trends and opposing views on issues.
The PAJ’s membership of agricultural editors and reporters from the print and broadcast media, and information writers and officers of government and privateagencies involved in agriculture, totals 231 to date. Close to one-fifth of them come from the tri-media. The present set of officers consists of Jenny Ng (Business Mirror), president; Matilde Maunahan (University of the Philippines Los Baños), vice-president for external affairs; Noel Reyes (Department of Agriculture- Agriculture and Fishery Information Service), vice-president for internal affairs; Ma. Ruby Lumongsod (Quedan & Rural Credit Guarantee Corporation), secretary; Inez Magbual (National Agribusiness Corporation), treasurer; Thelma Tolentino (Philippine Coconut Authority), auditor; Divine Reyes (Feati University), business manager; and Girlie Hilario (Philippine Fisheries Development Authority).
The board of directors includes The Philippine Star’s Rudy Fernandez; Manila Times’ Conrad Cariño; agricultural magazine editor Fermin Diaz; Juanito Goloyugo (International Rice Research Institute); Riza Olchondra (Philippine Daily Inquirer); Ma. Melba Wee (Department of Agriculture – Region 9); and Charisma Love Gado (Philippine Rice Research Institute).
Foremost of the PAJ’s projects included: a) hosting of the Asian Agricultural Journalists and Writers Association (AAJWA) Conference in Manila (late 1980s) with the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists represented by the United States, Germany and Ireland; b) representation of the Philippines in several IFAJ congresses; c) the 1990 TV program BINHI (“seed”), a tie-up with the Philippine Children’s Foundation; d) facilitation of the declaration and observance of the 2ndweek of September each year as “Agri-Journalism Week” via a 2001 presidential declaration; e) co-sponsored seminar-workshops on agricultural journalism and fora on agri-related issues; f) learning exercises and educational field trips for members; and g) the PAJ News Service. It continues to hold the yearly BINHI Agricultural Journalism Awards which was launched in 1978 to improve the craft and standards of journalism.
The PAJ has witnessed and helped chronicle agricultural development milestones including the dismantling of agricultural monopolies, enactment and implementation of the Philippines’ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and formal adoption of major macro-economic policy reforms in agriculture.
The organization faces the challenges of today’s pressing concerns as climate change, environmental degradation and lingering policy issues affecting the food supply chain, with renewed commitment, dedication and resolve to further agricultural reportage and advocacy, continuing to serve as catalyst in the development of the sectors of agriculture, environment and the economy as a whole.