Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC)

Dr. Arsenio M. Balisacan completed his directorship of SEARCA on 13 July 2009 after being at the helm of the Center for two three-year terms. He is succeeded by Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., the Center’s Deputy Director for Administration prior to his new appointment as SEARCA Director.

At a simple farewell program tendered by the Center last 13 July, Dr. Balisacan delivered his exit report to the SEARCA staff. The report highlighted the progress made by SEARCA toward the direction of mainstreaming agriculture in the development agenda.

Starting with the challenges of making reforms -- some innocuous, others radical -- in the Center back in July 2003 following the results of a comprehensive program and financial review conducted by the SEARCA Governing Board, Dr. Balisacan presented the accomplishments of the Center’s core programs, namely: Graduate Scholarship, Research and Development, and Knowledge Management.

His report tracked the Center’s progress from fiscal year 2001/2002 to fiscal year 2008/2009 using standardized key performance indicators. It showed an increasing performance trend across the core programs and activities of the Center. Dr. Balisacan said that he hoped what would be appreciated is that “during our term, we managed to etch SEARCA's place in the global community of influential development institutions. Our international conferences and meetings, including publications, albeit not many, have helped cement SEARCA's place in this community,” he added. Dr. Balisacan leaves the Center in a healthy financial state also.

Noting the achievements notched by SEARCA in the past six years, Mr. K Kesavapany, Director of Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, complimented Dr. Balisacan on “the outstanding leadership you have provided to SEARCA. Under your charge, the institution has gained stature in the academic world.” Likewise, Dr. Kejiro Otsuka, former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and currently the President, International Association of Agricultural Economists, lauded Dr. Balisacan’s efforts in leading SEARCA, saying “You did a superb job. I really respect your great leadership.” Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, former Director General of IRRI, said Dr. Balisacan can “look back with pride and satisfaction on your monumental contributions to the development of SEARCA.

Having led the crafting of two five-year plans of the Center (i.e., Eighth Five-Year Plan covering FYs 2004/2005-2008/2009 and Ninth Five-Year Plan covering FYs 2009/2010-2013/2014), Dr. Balisacan urged SEARCA to gear up as it faces additional challenges brought about by the slow recovery of the global economy; the problems posed by climate change particularly to the vulnerable sectors, among them the agriculture and rural sector; and the economic transformation of Southeast Asian countries; and the trend toward integration internationally and intra-nationally. He said SEARCA should continue to ensure that its programs and activities are value-adding and address social objectives, particularly poverty reduction and food security and that the Center should deepen its “presence and relevance in addressing agricultural and rural development issues of regional significance."

A leading development economist in Asia, with particularly research interests on poverty, inequality, agricultural and regional development, sustainable development, and political economy of policy reforms, Dr. Balisacan is a professor at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines Diliman. He is also currently serving in various technical and policy advisory councils, including those of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Philippine Congress Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering. He is also a Member of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of the Philippines, and chair of the NAST Task Force on Climate Change. Moreover, he is the President-elect of the Asian Society of Agricultural Economists.

Prior to his SEARCA directorship, Dr. Balisacan served as Agriculture Undersecretary in the Philippine Government, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Agribusiness Corporation, and Member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation. He has also served as adviser and expert in poverty and rural development issues to government chief executives and legislators and to bilateral and multilateral development institutions, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and various United Nations agencies.

Dr. Balisacan is well-published, with at least seven books and more than 100 journal articles and book chapters to his name. His more recent book titles include The Dynamics of Regional Development: The Philippines in East Asia (Edward Elgar, UK, with H. Hill), Reasserting the Rural Development Agenda: Lessons Learned and Emerging Challenges in Asia (ISEAS, Singapore, and SEARCA, with N. Fuwa), and The Philippine Economy: Development, Policies, and Challenges (Oxford University Press, with H. Hill). He is the founding Editor of the Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development, SEARCA’s international refereed journal.

Dr. Balisacan holds a PhD (Economics) from the University of Hawaii, a Master’s degree (Agricultural Economics) from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (obtained through a full graduate scholarship from SEARCA), and a Bachelor’s degree (Agriculture, magna cum laude) from the Mariano Marcos State University, Philippines.

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