Rex Orange County announces new album

Rex Orange County announces new album, Who Cares?New single and video “Keep it Up,” out now!

Rex Orange County by Alexandra Waespi





Rex Orange County returns to announce his forthcoming album WHO CARES?, which is due March 11th via Sony Music. Along with the announcement, Rex also shares the new album’s lead single and its accompanying video in “KEEP IT UP.” In the video, Rex is seen dancing his way through Amsterdam’s busy city center as he performs the track alongside musician Benny Sings, with whom he created WHO CARES? over the course of a few sessions in Sings’ Amsterdam studio.

Today’s release is Rex’s first since 2020’s Live at Radio City Music Hall EP taken from his two sold-out shows at the venue in 2020 just before his international Pony tour was cut short in Berlin due to Covid-19.

As it turns out, however, that tour being cut short is part of the genesis of this album. After spending the bulk of 2020 quarantined back home in the UK, Rex made the trek to Amsterdam that fall to record with Benny Sings, with whom he crafted the 2017 platinum selling breakout single “Loving Is Easy.” 

What started as sessions without expectations turned into an incredibly productive 48-hour window of recording with Benny, prompting a follow-up trip to Amsterdam.

The subsequent 10 days of work together produced his fourth album, made in close partnership with Benny, that is a playful record by an artist in a playful mood.

The album also finds Rex reunited with one of his earliest champions, Tyler, The Creator, who contributes a verse to “OPEN A WINDOW,” which marks the first time the two have collaborated since Tyler’s 2017 album Flower Boy. Listen to and watch “KEEP IT UP” above, find full album details below and stay tuned for more from Rex Orange County coming soon


DA partners with agro firms to produce quality, healthy swine breeders

In its continuing efforts to revive the country’s hog industry gravely affected by the African Swine Fever (ASF), the Duterte administration through the Department of Agriculture (DA) is partnering with the private sector to produce needed swine breeders to jumpstart and sustain the government’s hog repopulation program.

Over the weekend, Agriculture Secretary William Dar led the groundbreaking of a 5,000-sow level breeder nucleus farm, of JG Agroventures, Inc. and Pig Improvement Company (PIC), in Barangay Sta.Rita, Quezon, Nueva Ecija.

Once operational, the state-of-the-art facility will be stocked with PIC great grandparent (GGP) breeders, whose offsprings or grandparent (GP) piglets will be sold and distributed to commercial and clustered backyard swine raisers in Nueva Ecija and the rest of Luzon.

“We are initially committing P80 million for this laudable project that will help us speed up our hog repopulation efforts under the DA’s Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion (INSPIRE) program,” said Secretary Dar.

He instructed the DA’s National Livestock Program (NLP), headed by Dr. Ruth Sonaco to draft a memorandum of agreement to formalize the partnership with JG Agroventures and PIC. To bankroll the project, JG has applied for a P2.5-B loan with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank).

“We envision JG Agroventures to supply the DA initially with 1,000 GP quality breeders for every farrowing, which we will distribute to commercial and clustered backyard swine raisers, and farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) participating in our INSPIRE program,” said the DA chief.

“We thank JG for taking the initiative and investing in a big way in this breeder farm,” he added.

Myrna Galicia of JG Agroventures thanked the DA for continuously supporting the livestock sector, and forging partnerships that will provide livelihood and revive hog industry.

PIC’s Vino Borromeo said that the private sector plays a critical role in the DA’s initiatives to revive the swine industry.

“Tuwang-tuwa kami na may ganitong opportunity. Through this collaboration, we can provide livelihood, food security, and eventually improve the economy. Together, let us turn the pig industry into a globally competitive sector, by increasing production and quality,” Borromeo said.

In all, Secretary Dar expressed his appreciation to JG, PIC and other private groups that are actively taking part in government’s agriculture and livestock projects.

“Let’s continue our united efforts to help the country’s hog industry get back on its feet, and contribute again to building a strong, resilient agriculture sector,” the DA chief said.

Several major agribusiness firms are also partnering with the DA to revive the swine industry, like the Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Company (UNAHCO) and Charoen Pokphand Foods Philippines, Corp. (CP Foods). The latter has invested in a P500-million swine breeder farm in Isabela, and has committed to produce an additional 600,000 fatteners this year. It also plans to buy at least 300,000 metric tons (MT) of yellow corn from farmers for its feedmill business.

This year, the DA has allotted P4.1 B to implement the “Bantay ASF sa Barangay and hog repopulation program, that entails establishment of swine breeder and multiplier farms, said Sonaco.

Last year, thru Bayanihan II, the DA-NLP financed and established 14 multiplier farms, that are operated and managed by the LGUs, state universities and colleges (SUCs) and FCAs, two of which — the Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) and Zamboanga hog raisers’ cooperative — received P5-M each, and will soon distribute swine breeders to their members.

The DA-NLP also put up community-based swine production and expansion thru clustering and consolidation, providing P5-M grant each to hog raisers’ groups and FCAs in ASF green zones in Mindoro, Aklan, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Zamboanga del Sur and South Cotabato, Sonaco said. Once they have completed their respective biosecured facilities, these will be stocked with piglets for fattening in July and ready to be sold in November.

By 2023, the DA targets to produce 440,563 breeders and 10.5 million finishers under the INSPIRE program, in partnership with commercial and clustered backyard hog raisers, LGUs, and SUCs.

To help bankroll the hog repopulation program, the DA through its Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) has allotted P800 M for lending to backyard and semi-commercial raisers in ASF green zones. Individual borrowers can avail of P300,000 up to P3M, and small enterprises and FCAs, up to P15 M. The loan has zero interest, and payable up to five years.

In addition, LandBank and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) have allotted P30B and P12B, respectively, for lending to commercial raisers in ASF-free areas. ### (Adora Rodriguez, DA-AFID)


Agri chief vows to make farmers, fishers more progressive, prosperous

 “Agriculture is the pillar of our economy.”

This was highlighted by Agriculture Secretary William Dar, as he addressed the officials, faculty members, and students at the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU) in Bacnotan, La Union, during his conferment as Doctor of Philosophy in Development Administration (Honoris Causa) on February 4, 2022.

Amid the global pandemic, he said that agriculture and food production activities continue to be the saving grace of the Philippine economy.

“I have been and continue to advocate for prosperity in rural communities that became more intense when we were appointed by President Duterte in August 2019, implementing programs that continue to make our ‘food heroes’ — small farmers, fisherfolk and entrepreneurs — more empowered, progressive, and prosperous.”

“When called to serve again, I had the bigger chance to rally resources, government support, and partnerships towards a vision where the winners are the farmers and fishers, and the national economy,” Dar said in his acceptance speech both in Ilocano and English.

“The harsh reality is that there is a lot more to be done, all of which must be undertaken amidst natural disasters, plant and animal diseases, a global health crisis, and food inflation,” added the DA chief, who received his 10th honorary doctorate degree from academic institutions here and abroad.

Aside from the food producers, “we must perform a balancing act, where we should also consider the welfare of the consumers, the vast majority of our people, as they face unemployment and hunger under the lingering pandemic situation,” he said.

With these conditions, he called upon the support of the academe, particularly the DMMMSU family, to remain a reliable ally of the Department in the promotion and development of agricultural and fishery technologies and innovations.

“Help us at the DA fight hunger and poverty. I challenge you to do the greater good for the greater number of our people,” Secretary Dar said.

He further urged the state university for a stronger convergence between research and development to address the challenges that hinder the transformation of the agriculture and fishery sector towards modernization, industrialization and global competitiveness.

“I know we cannot do everything at once as much as we wanted to, but continue to focus on your strong areas. Be game-changers and history-makers in agriculture,” he concluded. ### (Adora Rodriguez, DA-AFID)


Government completes nine legislated hatcheries, 21 more set for completion

Of the 37 multi-species hatcheries and aquaculture facilities to be constructed nationwide under 22 Republic Acts passed during the 16th, 17th and 18th Congresses, the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), to date, has completed a total of 9, while 21 are now under construction and expected to be completed by the first half of 2022.

Agriculture Secretary William Dollente Dar has ensured that the construction of all these hatcheries, being among the priority thrusts of the government on food security, were provided with complete funding. The DA-BFAR allocated 635 million pesos for the construction of these hatcheries in 2021 and sees the completion of all 37 hatcheries by the end of 2022.

The DA-BFAR’s Legislated Hatcheries Program aims to meet local requirements for aquaculture seed stocks, reduce dependence from imported fry, and ultimately augment the production of the Aquaculture sector. Further, it aims to increase the variety of cultivable species in the country, promote species diversification, and provide venue for fisheries extension services.

The first of the batch of these legislated hatcheries – a multi-species marine hatchery located in Perez, Quezon – was inaugurated in December 2021. Immediately following this and before the year ended, the DA-BFAR completed the construction of mangrove crab seed banks, nurseries and grow-out production farms in seven other sites – Baras, Viga, Panganiban, Bagamanoc, San Andres, Caramoran and Pandan in the Province of Catanduanes – and a multi-species marine hatchery in Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte.

Meanwhile, of the 21 legislated hatcheries that are now under construction, three (3) are mangrove crab seed banks, nurseries and grow-out production farms in Catanduanes, nine (9) are multi-species marine hatcheries in Quezon (5), Albay, Cebu, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur, two (2) are multi-species freshwater hatcheries in Agusan del Norte and Lanao del Norte (with Research Center), and one multi-species marine nursery in Sultan Kudarat. Aside from hatcheries and a nursery, there are also seven Provincial Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Training, Development and Product Centers currently in construction in provinces in EasternVisayas.

Among the partners in the implementation of the Program is the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center/Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) who helped prepare the feasibility studies, provided assistance in identifying suitable sites, helped in designing the

hatcheries, and lent their expertise in developing hatchery models at its Tigbauan Station. The DA Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering (DA-BAFE) and the Visayas State University, meanwhile, also helped in capacitating DA-BFAR personnel in conducting the feasibility studies for the construction of the hatcheries.

In the first two years of operation, the DA-BFAR will manage the hatcheries and aquaculture facilities while providing technical trainings to the local government units that will eventually take full responsibility upon its transfer.

The Legislated Hatcheries Program is parallel with one of the key strategies under Secretary Dar’s ‘OneDA Reform Agenda,’ which seeks to modernize the agri-fisheries sector through infrastructure investments.

This week, 14 more bills seeking the establishment of marine hatcheries in 12 provinces were passed. Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of Senate committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, and sponsor of the measures, supports and stresses the importance of multispecies marine hatcheries in ensuring sustainable supply of marine products.

With this kind of support, the DA-BFAR commits to implement these measures to achieve local fry sufficiency in the country through increased production for important species such as Bangus. ### (DA-BFAR)


DOTr Press Release
04 February 2022


With road accidents and motor vehicle-related crimes remaining as perennial problems in the country, the Land Transportation Office’s (LTO) Central Command Center (C3) can help address and solve these problems with the aid of an incident reporting mobile app called CitiSend, Transportation Secretary Art Tugade emphasized.

“Sa tulong ng imprastrukturang ito at kapag ginamit mo itong app na CitiSend, magkakaroon ka ng ugnayan direkta sa LTO kung saan bibigyang solusyon at atensyon ang mga nangyayari na nakaka-apekto sa seguridad at safety ng publiko,” Secretary Tugade explained during the inauguration of the LTO Central Command Center (C3) on Friday, 04 February 2022.

Reiterating the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) uncompromising stand on road safety, Secretary Tugade said the LTO C3 and incident reporting mobile app CitiSend will serve as the road user’s direct line of communication to the LTO.

“There is no substitute to safety. Itong instrumento na ito ay isang magandang system kung saan makakatulong ito sa pagganap at pagbago ng safety sa ating mga kalsada,” Secretary Tugade added.

A technical innovation design to ensure road safety and public awareness nationwide, the LTO C3 will serve as the central nerve of the agency’s Operations and Law Enforcement Service in which the surveillance monitoring, coordination and alarm monitoring shall be performed in accordance with the agency’s mandate under Republic Act No. 4136 entitled, “An Act to Compile the Laws Relative to Land Transportation and Traffic Rules, to Create a Land Transportation Commission and for Other Purposes.”

The C3 will also serve as the joint LTO and Philippine National Police (PNP) Operations and Control Center in compliance with Republic Act No. 10883, or otherwise known as the “New Anti-Carnapping Act of 2016”; and Republic Act No. 11235 “An Act Preventing and Penalizing the Use of Motorcycles in the Commission of Crimes by Requiring Bigger, Readable and Color-Coded Number Plates and Identification Marks, and for Other Purposes.”

Secretary Tugade lauded the LTO for launching innovative programs that limit human intervention through digitization.

“Saludo ako sa inyo dahil binigyan ninyong patotoo ang programang ‘Digitization’ sapagkat dito mawawala ang tinatawag na intervention of human hands, ang mananaig at mapapalaganap ay teknolohiya,” Secretary Tugade said.

DOTr Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Mark Steven Pastor said the LTO C3 will help minimize road crashes and motor vehicle-related crimes.

“Itong pasilidad na pinasisinayaan natin ngayon ay magbabago po sa buhay ng milyun-milyon nating kababayan because it will ensure na mas makatutulong ang LTO, hindi lamang sa driver’s license at rehistro ng sasakyan, ngayon po sa road safety,” Usec. Pastor stressed.

“This program will ensure—sa araw-araw, mababawasan ang road crashes, araw-araw mare-resolba ang mga krimen na may kinalaman sa ating motor vehicles,” Pastor added.

Moreover, LTO Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante also underscored the importance of the establishment of C3 saying that the project “is one of the flagship programs that the LTO has dared to pursue and was built to empower each and every road user.”


DOTr Press Release
31 January 2022

“No vax no ride” policy to be lifted starting Feb. 1 as NCR shifts back to Alert Level 2

MANILA – The “no vax, no ride” policy for commuters using public transportation in the National Capital Region (NCR) will be lifted stating Tuesday, 1 February 2022, as the metropolis eases into the more relaxed COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

The “no vax, no ride” policy was among the measures implemented by the government to prevent the transmission of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The policy was enforced during the time that the NCR was under COVID-19 Alert Level 3 following a department order issued by Transportation Secretary Art Tugade, which was anchored on the Metro Manila Council Resolution approved by MMDA and Metro Manila Mayors, as well as on the ordinances issued by all NCR LGUs prohibiting unvaccinated individuals from boarding public transportation.

As stated by the department order,  the “no vaccination, no ride” policy will not be permanentlt enforced in the NCR and will only be enforced while the NCR remains under Alert Level 3, 4, or 5 as determined by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF).

The policy is automatically lifted or suspended once the NCR is classified as Alert Level 2.

“Ang No Vaxx, No Ride Policy ay HINDI perpetual o pang-habambuhay. Ito po ay ipatutupad lamang habang ang Metro Manila ay nasa Alert Level 3 o mas mataas pa. Ibig sabihin, kung ang Covid-19 Alert Level System sa Metro Manila ay ibaba na sa Alert Level 2, ang No Vaxx, No Ride Policy sa mga pampublikong transportasyon ay awtomatikong ili-lift o isususpinde na,” DOTr Secretary Art Tugade said.

The policy is also in line with the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to limit the movement of unvaccinated individuals in the country.

Sec. Art Tugade, meanwhile reminded that minimum health protocols in public transport must still be observed to prevent another surge.

“Paalala lamang po. Ang lifted lamang ay ang no vaxx, no ride/entry. Hindi lifted ang enforcement ng minimum health protocols. Ugaliin pa rin natin na magsuot ng face mask, laging mag-disinfect ng sasakyan, huwag kumain o magsalita sa loob ng pampublikong transportasyon, i-ensure ang proper ventilation sa mga sasakyan, at sumunod sa appropriate physical distancing. Huwag tayong pakampante. Ang Covid ay nasa paligid pa rin,” Sec. Tugade said.

Meanwhile, Transportation Undersecretary for Administrative Service and DOTr official representative to the IATF said  that the capacity of public transportation shall be retained to 70%.

“Public transport capacity will still be at 70%. Wala po tayong ibabawas sa supply and capacity of public transport. Kung ano yung mga pinapayagang tumakbo before we shifted to Alert Level 3 earlier this January, papayagan pa rin natin ngayon. Any increase in capacity will have to be approved by the IATF,” Usec Tuazon clarified.


January 26, 2022


MANILA – Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers in industries and establishments allowed to operate in the National Capital Region (NCR) under the existing COVID-19 Alert Level 3 status will only be given 30 days from 26 January 2022 to continue riding public transportation and public utility vehicles (PUVs) in entering, exiting, and going around the metropolis.

This, after Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año, and Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade, discussed in an interagency meeting on Friday, January 21, and concurred to come up with the decision after looking into the country’s vaccination data.

DOTr Undersecretary for Administrative Service and official representative to the IATF Artemio Tuazon Jr. said that the decision intends to protect unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers who are using public transportation from contracting COVID-19 and later developing severe infections.

“This is to ensure that only those fully protected against COVID-19 are safe from using public transport. Data show that workers who remain unvaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19 are more vulnerable to severe and critical infections,” Usec. Tuazon explained.  

Usec. Tuazon said that 30 days following the announcement of the new protocol, only workers in the NCR who are fully vaccinated (those who have completed the 2-dose primary series vaccination such as for the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, or Moderna brands; or the one-dose vaccination such as for the Janssen brand) are allowed to use public transportation.

Within the 30-day window, partially vaccinated workers are still allowed to board public transportation. However, since partially unvaccinated individuals are still at risk given that they do not have complete protection against the virus as clarified by the Health Department, they are also not allowed to use public transportation if vaccination remains incomplete within the 30-day window.

Tuazon added that the joint decision made by the DOLE, DILG, and the DOTr supports the government’s ongoing thrust to ramp up vaccination efforts, especially amid the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

“This joint decision is also meant to support the vaccination drive of the entire government. We want our workers to get fully vaccinated especially now that there is no longer a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, and there is a threat of highly transmissible variants of the virus. We are giving our workers the time to get themselves vaccinated,” Tuazon added.

The DOTr official, however, clarified that the joint decision made by the DOLE, DILG, and the DOTr is not discriminatory.

“As jointly decided by the DOLE, DILG and DOTr, workers who will remain unvaccinated 30 days after the announcement are not being barred from their workplaces. They are simply not allowed to use public transportation, but can still use other means such as active transport, private vehicles, or company shuttle services,” said Usec Tuazon.


2 February 2022

Women Strong Network ASEAN kick-off spotlight agribusiness leaders

The Women’s Business Council of the Philippines (WomenBizPH); Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); Philippine Commission on Women (PCW); IPB University, Indonesia; and the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) banded together to organize the ASEAN kick-off of the Women Strong Network last January 24. ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The launch event was a forum on models of women in agribusiness that featured women leaders across the ASEAN region who shared their experiences in business management and how women can be key agents in agriculture, nutrition, and rural development.

In her opening message, Monette Iturralde-Hamlin, Chairwoman of Women’s Business Council Philippines and President and Founder of TeamAsia, said, “By putting the spotlight on agribusiness, we are sending out a very strong signal on the vital role of women in food security as well as nation building.”

DTI Undersecretary Blesila A. Lantayona and Lenny Rosalin, Indonesia’s Deputy Minister for Gender Equality, Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, keynoted the kick-off event.

She said, “While women appear to be closing the gender gap in several fields…, they continue to be mostly invisible and undervalued in one of the Philippines’ economic sectors, which is agriculture.”

Usec Lantayona added that “better representation of women in agriculture means more than just an increase in the amount of food produced by women-owned or women-operated farms and lands; it means expanded opportunities for today’s women agriculturists to access finance and grow their operations and assume and perform leadership roles that may help ensure the food security of our nation.”

For her part, Deputy Minister Rosalin shared the programs of the Indonesian government. She said the government is doing all of this because almost half of Indonesia’s population, or about 135 million, are women, most of whom are at the productive age.

She pointed out that “Once we improve them, then the multiplier impact to the whole economy will be improved too.”

An all-women panel also discussed the trends and issues women agribusiness leaders face today. They also drew attention to initiatives that maximize resources to facilitate national and regional economic recovery in the Philippines and Indonesia. The panelists were Ana Margarita Hontiveros-Malvar, Senior Advisor for Agripreneurship and Mindanao Program Head, Go Negosyo; Atty. Dulce Punzalan, World Bamboo Ambassador; Diah Yusuf, Chairwoman, Womenpreneurs Indonesia Networks (WIN); Intani Dewi of IPB University, Indonesia; and Jatu Barmawati, owner of AyoMart, Indonesia.

“We have witnessed how agriculture took the frontline during this global crisis. The necessity of producing and mobilizing food to feed the population has been a challenge that was highlighted with the limitations brought by the pandemic,” said SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, who capped off the launch event.

He shared that SEARCA also gives priority to women as part of its focus on Gender and Youth Engagement in Agricultural and Rural Development in its efforts toward accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation (ATTAIN) from 2020 to 2025.

“Let us not discount the dynamic roles that women are taking as we navigate the evolving landscape of food security, nutrition and environment protection,” Gregorio stressed.


31 January 2022

Filipinos win top prizes in Southeast Asian photo contest

Images of farming families practicing healthy diets and engaging in nutritious food production during the persisting COVID-19 pandemic, five of which by Filipino photographers, won in the 2021 photo contest of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) themed “One Health is Wealth: Healthy Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems.”

Filipinos won the first and second prizes, People’s Choice and SEARCA Director’s Choice awards, and the Best Youth Photographer Award (Mobile Phone). The other winning photos were by photographers from Vietnam and Myanmar.

A photo depicting home gardening by Lindy Vivien Aldaba won the first prize. The winning picture is a vignette illustrating how the COVID-19 pandemic opened people’s minds to produce food in the comfort of their own homes with access to online resources to help them grow their plants well.

Klienne Eco bagged the second prize with his photo of a mother and her children going through a schoolbook together in front of a healthy spread of vegetables, fruits, milk, and bread.

The third prize went to a photo of a farmer harvesting water mimosa by The Duy Tu. Water mimosa is a calcium- and iron-rich vegetable that also contains vitamins A and C. In Southeast Asia, it is found in still waters in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The winner of the SEARCA Director’s Choice is a photo by Arturo B. de Vera, Jr. showing a farming couple with the father preparing a fresh harvest of fruits and vegetables for a meal and the mother breastfeeding her baby, both of which will boost the immune system against rampant diseases, including COVID-19.

“The food systems that focus on sustainable agriculture and recognize breastfeeding as the first food cut across human health and planetary health,” said Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director.

He added that the photo vividly captured the brightness of the sun that highlights the colorful harvest of the day.

On the other hand, Kyaw Zayar Lin’s photo of farm workers having a meal beside a rice field emerged as the Philippine Department of Education Secretary’s Choice. Dr. Leonor Magtolis Briones is the incumbent Philippine Education Secretary.

The People’s Choice Award winner is a photo by Arnel Dagdag Garcia of a young boy about to plant a seedling as his father and brother harvest crops behind him. The photo garnered more than 1,000 likes on Facebook.

To mark its 15th milestone year, the SEARCA Photo Contest added two special awards for young shutterbugs who used a camera and a mobile phone. Aung Myat Thu bagged the Best Youth Photographer Award (Camera) for his photo of beans scattering out of a farmer’s cupped hands. Meanwhile, her photo of a little girl drinking processed raw milk collected from a cow won for Emely J. Escala the Best Youth Photographer Award (Mobile Phone).

The first, second, and third prize winners won US$1,000, $800, and $500, respectively. The SEARCA Director’s Choice and Philippine Department of Education Secretary’s Choice winners each won $500, while the winner of the People’s Choice Award via Facebook votation gets $400. The Best Youth Photographer Award recipients each won $300.


26 January 2022

Forum discussed gender mainstreaming initiatives for post-COVID-19 recovery

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Philippines Gender Network (IPGN) and the Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns (ATMI-ASEAN) project co-implemented by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) organized a virtual forum on mainstreaming gender equality towards an inclusive and sustainable post-COVID 19 recovery in Southeast Asia held on 21 January 2022.

According to Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, SEARCA Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership, the IFAD-funded ATMI-ASEAN project covers the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

Gender mainstreaming is a globally accepted strategy that accounts for the differences in needs, living conditions, and circumstances of women and men when designing, implementing and evaluating policies, programs and projects so that they benefit both women and men and enhance gender equality.

Orencio stressed that mainstreaming gender equality must be at the heart of the recovery agenda as this is crucial to development, particularly in ensuring programs are gender-balanced—something that is not given much attention during a crisis. He explained that by making the policymaking process more inclusive for women and men, better governance systems can be achieved.

Dr.  Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, pointed out that the “frontline” role assumed by the agriculture sector and key players during the pandemic had transcended gender norms and biases. Noting the diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences of the forum participants at the outset, he urged them to contribute to the discussion and actions to realize the transformative impacts of empowering women and men, the youth, and indigenous communities to manage the challenges in the region’s agricultural sector.

At the forum, local and international experts discussed gender mainstreaming initiatives in Southeast Asia to come up with recommendations for scaling up and adoption to complement and support the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF).

Miguel Rafael Musngi, Senior Officer at the ASEAN Secretariat Poverty Eradication and Gender Division, presented the ACRF and the ASEAN Gender Outlook. It complemented the presentations of Mr. Steven Jonckheere, IFAD Senior Technical Specialist for Gender & Social Inclusion, on the organization’s current gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives and of Dr. Agnes Quisumbing, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow, on the reach-benefit-empower framework for gender equality in agriculture.

IFAD Country Director for the Philippines and Myanmar Alessandro Marini affirmed that gender is currently one of the four key mainstreaming thematic priorities of IFAD in terms of investments and operations. He said the IPGN facilitates knowledge exchanges and sharing of lessons among the different IFAD projects to ensure that the quality of IFAD operations in the country, particularly with respect to gender equality, is high. He explained that such forums support IFAD in harvesting knowledge and best practices to help further improve the effectiveness of its operations.

Gregorio also noted the importance of partnerships among organizations in providing in-depth knowledge and co-creation platform as the region welcomes new movements in the emerging digital sphere and gears towards the ASEAN Gender Outlook

SEARCA, through the ATMI-ASEAN project, hosted a panel session to discuss specific gender mainstreaming strategies on key priority topics under the ACRF. The selected topics and their discussants were food and nutrition security by Dr. Devesh Roy, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow; climate change and disaster resilience, by Dr. Julian Gonsalves, Senior Advisor, International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR); and digital technologies in agriculture, by Atty. Dulce Blanca Punzalan, Chief Executive Officer, Crea8 Innov8 Marketing.

These topics were also the focus of the IPGN-facilitated breakout session wherein participants from different countries shared their gender-related programs and initiatives. Each group also provided recommendations and proposed courses of action to support and complement the implementation of the ACRF.

IPGN Chair Rhine Joy Lesigues, who is also the Institutions and Gender Specialist (IGS) of the IFAD-supported project Fisheries, Coastal Resources and Livelihood Project (FishCORAL), recommended that in future IPGN strive to extend its membership and broaden its reach by implementing activities and providing support to other gender-related programs in the Asia-Pacific region. She explained that this will be an opportunity for IPGN to capacitate IFAD-supported projects and link them with regional gender experts as well as to document gender issues, strategies, and lessons learned through knowledge sharing activities.

For his part, Dr. Shahidur Rashid, Director of IFPRI-South Asia, recommended the following actions to improve gender mainstreaming: know gender differential effects in the food system; look beyond food security to include food safety, nutrition, and overall health security; and regard climate change as an “existential challenge” for the region.

Rashid also emphasized that mainstreaming gender equality is a lifetime endeavor, and those working to promote this should continuously strive to open spaces for multistakeholder discussions and encourage equal representation in all aspects of the policy-making process such as in the case of COVID-19 response planning and decision-making.

Yolando Arban, IFAD Philippines’ Special Adviser and Acting Country Programme Officer, formally closed the forum with an assurance of IFAD’s continuous commitment to support gender empowerment and transformation, especially in the field of agriculture and rural development where many women and girls are vulnerable.

The forum was attended by some 190 participants from government agencies and ministries in the region; from international and regional institutions, such as the ASEAN Secretariat, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Grow Asia and its country partnerships; from civil society organizations in the region such as the Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA) and its country offices, Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) and its member-organizations; and at the local level such as the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection (MoWECP) in Indonesia, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (MWFCD) in Malaysia, Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MSWRR) in Myanmar, among others; from the ATMI-ASEAN Project implementers and country partner-institutions; and from IFAD-supported projects in the Philippines.