UPLB, KOICA, IRRI hold first meeting for Agricultural Genomics Research Center project

In a landmark collaboration aimed at enhancing agricultural research and education in the Philippines, UPLB chaired the first Project Steering Committee (PSC) Meeting signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Morell Boardroom for the project “Capacity-Building for Higher Education and the Establishment of Agricultural Genomics Research Center at the University of the Philippines Los Baños” on March 26.

This event brought together key stakeholders from the government of Korea through the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Philippine government, and IRRI.

UPLB Chancellor Jose V. Camacho Jr. who is serving as the PSC chair, KOICA Country Director Kim Eunsub, and IRRI Interim Director General Ajay Kohli, attended the ceremony.

In his opening remarks, represented by Mr. AJ Poncin, Dr. Ajay Kohli provided a visionary perspective on the future of agriculture. “The next era that is coming in terms of plant breeding and agriculture is indeed going to be genomics-based. And that is not just the genomics-based kind of expertise that we need in terms of the markers at the genome level. But also understanding the functionalities of the genome in a very deeper sense, because it is only through that understanding at the genes and genetics level that we will be able to effectively use the new technology of gene editing,” he said.

Chancellor Camacho highlighted the importance of this collaboration in accelerating the country’s agricultural advancements through genomics research.

“The collaboration among us, KOICA, IRRI, DOST, and UPLB, together with the fair support and cooperation of the PCAARRD, DOST, of CHED, and the Department of Agriculture, NEDA is a testament to the power of collective endeavor and shared vision. It reflects our united commitment to advancing agricultural genomics, enhancing our higher education capacity, and ultimately contributing to the sustainable development of our agricultural sector.”

Before the ceremonial discussions, Chancellor Camacho provided a comprehensive update on the status of ongoing projects under his purview, emphasizing the milestones achieved and the challenges encountered.

Mr. Eunsub Kim, in his remarks, underscored the significance of collaboration for the project’s success. “Today marks the first convening of the PSC since the project inception. I believe this meeting provides an opportunity for all to foster positive relationships and cooperation among stakeholders. Experience has shown that the success of the project hinges greatly on the collaborative efforts of entrepreneurs, partners, and stakeholders. I encourage everyone to offer this guidance and support to ensure the project’s success.”

The project, backed by a significant investment from the Korean government and contributions from the Philippine government and IRRI, aims to establish the AGRC as a center of excellence for agricultural genomics. 

The center will serve as a hub for research, innovation, and education, aiming to elevate the agriculture sector’s competitiveness and address food security challenges through cutting-edge science and technology.

The MOU signed during the event outlines the roles and commitments of each party in realizing the project’s goals as per the Record of Discussions signed on July 14, 2023. 

It encompasses academic partnerships, scholarships, and training programs designed to build capacity in genome-based research and development, underscoring the collaborative spirit of the initiative.

As members of the PSC, also present were Ma. Annie S. Bucu, agricultural program coordinating officer of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region IV-A; Loupel Gueta, OIC – chief education program specialist of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Region IV-A;  Revy Jolongbayan, OIC division chief of the Project Development, Investment Programming and Budgeting Division; Benjamin Bautista, senior economic development specialist; representatives of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA); National Scientist Dolores A. Ramirez; and Dr Reynaldo V. Ebora, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, (DOST-PCAARRD).

The project steering committee, composed of representatives from UPLB, KOICA, IRRI, DA, CHED, NEDA, NAST, and DOST-PCAARRD, will oversee the project’s implementation, ensuring its alignment with national priorities and its contribution to global efforts in agricultural genomics research and capacity building for higher education. (Joseph Andre Mane)