The director of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research Agriculture (Searca) is stepping down after four decades of service to the Center, starting as a student assistant and working himself to the top post and holding it for an unprecedented three terms.
Although Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. enjoys the support and full backing of Searca’s 11-member governing board, the Center’s Charter does not allow him a fourth term.
Saguiguit himself feels it is time to move on. “My job is to see to it that Searca is better than when I first took over as director,” he said. “I would like to think I did just that as evidenced by the kind of development organization Searca is today.”
A professional search for qualified candidates to succeed Saguiguit is ongoing. The call for applications has been published and all application information are available online at the Searca’s web site.
Proof that the Philippine government-hosted Asian agency has come into its own is the kind of recognition the Center has been receiving from partners, donors and stakeholders within and outside the Southeast Asian region.
Under Saguiguit’s leadership, Searca reached unparalleled heights as a research and capacity-building organization. Donor confidence, partnerships, and international linkages soared under his watch and through his efforts.
It became the partner institution of choice for international agencies, such as Asian Development Bank (ADB), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, European Union, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, German Academic Exchange Service, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development and Agropolis Fondation of France, to name a few.
This has translated in significant increases in grants and external funding Searca has received from major international donors and partners.
The Center has also evolved into a think tank that addresses contemporary and emerging issues in the agriculture sector brought about by the Asean Economic Integration. It convened policy forums and conducted cutting-edge research that produced science-based policy recommendations and legislation for national governments Searca is mandated to serve.
The Center has become increasingly engaged with the Asean with Saguiguit at the helm.
At the home front, Searca gave back to its host government. Technical assistance to government line agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform, Environment and Natural Resources, Commission on Higher Education, and the Climate Change Commission, flourished under his leadership and contributed much to agricultural and rural development in the Philippines.
Alongside making headway in its technical work, Searca also improved the efficiency of its operations and support infrastructure to cope with the influx of new programs and projects.
During his tenure, Searca and Saguiguit received many awards and citations from member and associate member-countries of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization, Searca’s mother organization.
In 2015 the president of Myanmar recognized Searca’s contributions to sustainable development of the country through its human-resource development and capacity-building programs. Searca has twice landed in the top 10 list of firms doing work with ADB on development projects focused on the agriculture sector.
Among his personal achievements, Saguiguit was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Applied Economics from Thailand’s Maejo University awarded by the late King Bhumipol through the princess of Thailand. He was also recognized by the French government, which conferred on him the rank of Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole (Knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit).
The Vietnamese government recognized him for his contributions to education and his tireless efforts to promote agricultural development in the country. He also received the Outstanding Alumnus in Regional Institutional Development and the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Agriculture and Rural Development from the University of the Philippines Los Baños Alumni Association.