Crossroads (Toward Philippine economic and social progress)
Philippine Star, 14 June 2017


The passing early this week of Dr. Amado A. Castro, the first dean of the University of the Philippines School of Economics, provides the occasion to comment on the early years of this institution that he helped build as an independent academic unit of the UP.

The school has become a hugely influential institution in our national sphere, providing the nation’s government decision-makers with economic talent.

The school belongs to the stellar constellation of institutions that come from the UP which supports the nation. But the magnitude, consistency and speed by which it has achieved this status is exceptional in the university.

How it all began. In its early beginnings, the school was a unit of the older College of Business Administration, itself a UP unit founded before World War II. I discussed this period until it became an autonomous entity of the University of the Philippines in my biography of Cesar Virata (UP Press, 2014, pp. 110-114).

The “divorce” of Economics from Business happened during the presidency of Carlos P. Romulo. As dean, Cesar Virata initiated the move on the basis of pragmatic principles of educational philosophy after asking whether Economics and Business belonged to one another within an administrative academic structure.

Common sense and understanding dominated that discussion. In the typical units of academe, combative cliques and noisy disagreement would have erupted before effecting such a change. But the decision for divorce in this unique case was governed by civil discussion and consensual agreement.

At that time, there were already five faculty members with PhDs, graduates of top universities in the United States: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia universities and M.I.T.

Shortly after independence in 1946, the UP had its own UP Faculty Fellows study programs, funded from the university budget.

Amado Castro was among the first PhD graduates in UP’s postwar faculty. Sent to study on a UP faculty fellowship to Harvard University, he returned in 1954, becoming the most senior PhD-educated economist in the faculty.

Jose Encarnacion Jr., who finished his PhD at Princeton, and who was later to become the second dean and iconic intellectual and administrative leader for a longer time during the 1970s to the 1980s, was also educated on a UP Fellowship. Agustin Kintanar Jr., who got his PhD at Yale, was likewise educated on a similar scholarship, would replace Castro as IEDR director.

In 1956, shortly after the founding of the IEDR, the Rockefeller Foundation gave a sizable grant for faculty development in Economics, including one to develop the Economics Library. This led to the construction of the Benton Hall which housed both the Economics Library and the College of Business Building. (This building stands between the Education (Benitez) Hall and the Arts and Sciences (Palma) Hall of UP today.)

In 1964, a major grant from Ford Foundation gave further impetus to the school’s development. The resulting project was the UP-University of Wisconsin program in Development Economics to train government planners and administrators. This led to the influx of faculty talents in economic Development from the University of Wisconsin to assist the school while the faculty was still being trained.

This support enhanced also the local fellowship program already heavily underwritten by Rockefeller Foundation with visiting professors and funding for local fellowships for full-time graduate study in Economics at the new school. This scholarship program harnessed talents for economics from newly graduating classes in many universities of the country, including those in UP.

The two US foundations provided a constant stream of visiting professors which enhanced the quality of the local training program. In turn, the new graduates provided the new faculty backbone of the school of Economics, especially with the help of further studies abroad, either for further advanced degrees or postdoctoral exposures.

The training program in Development Economics for government officials enabled several yearly cohorts of Philippine officials to spend a one year program of intensive training in economic development issues. This helped sharpen their skills in government, adding further a sense of camaraderie with their co-workers that was fostered during their time of participation in the training program.

Since then, the alumni of the graduate studies program have become the main supply of economic talent to the government and the nation (in addition to the usual undergraduate degree-holders of the school).

Other major personages. A long line of students was harnessed into the graduate program through these local graduate scholarship grants offered in the School of Economics. An incomplete set of prominent names come to mind: Felipe Medalla, Dante Canlas, Benjamin Diokno, Romeo Bautista, Gonzalo Jurado, Raul Fabella, Emmanuel de Dios, Emmanuel Esguerra, Orville Solon, Ruperto Alonso, Gwendolyn Tecson, Vicente Paqueo, Danilo Villanueva, Evangeline Javier, Chita Tanchoco, Filologo Pante, Jr., Wilfredo Nuguid, Chito Sobrepena, Mario Lamberte, Linda Medalla, Rosario Manasan, Ponciano Intal, Josef Yap and Gilbert Llanto.

Further, the school on its own attracted and recruited to the faculty many who took graduate studies in other universities, mostly in the US. Among these were Edita Tan, Solita Monsod, Cayetano Paderanga Jr., Ernesto Pernia, Ramon Clarete, Florian Alburo, Arsenio Balisacan, Ma. Socorro Bautista and Rolando Danao.

The list above is incomplete. All of them have either served in the Economics faculty, went on to lead government positions as cabinet secretaries in various positions as NEDA director generals, other cabinet positions, as deputies, directors, or served as economists in international institutions like the World Bank, IMF, or the Asian Development Bank, or worked as prominent economists at the government think tank, the PIDS (Philippine Institute for Development Studies).

There are also private sector achievers from the school. A wider list would include many graduates of the bachelors program which the school’s alumni Association has or has yet to honor for their individual achievements.

Advances in the 1970s-1980s. Two major developments further strengthened the school. I was fortunate to be at NEDA to facilitate these important steps in the progress of the school.

The Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED) was set up to buttress the school’s financial foundations. The PCED further strengthened initiatives that protected its faculty from depletion through competition from outside.

The other development was the construction of its major building premises, thanks to a major grant made by the government of Japan.