Bernardo M. Villegas
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Message to Millennials and Centennials (Part 2)

           For those in their twenties and early thirties who want to be part of the “Angat Buhay” movement announced by outgoing VP Leni Robredo, there are unlimited opportunities to channel their talents and energy towards helping the marginalized Filipinos.  To get an idea of what can be the agenda of this umbrella NGO conceptualized by VP Robredo, let us examine her track record during the last six years when, as Vice President, with very limited resources assigned to her by the Duterte Government, she was able to accomplish a great deal by partnering with the private sector.  I am witness to some of these accomplishments because of some of the NGOs in which I am active, either as an officer or a member of the board of directors.

          In an article that appeared in this paper last January 2, 2022, Raymund Antonio summarized what were the achievements of the outgoing Vice-President in an article entitled “Leni Robredo’s Six Years as VP:  What She Has Accomplished.”  As of December 2021, the OVP’s flagship poverty alleviation program, “Angat Buhay” had helped and partnered with 372 organizations, mobilized P520 million worth of resources, helped 622,000 families, and reached 223 cities and municipalities.  In keeping with her focus on the youth (whom she now wants to mobilize as she joins the private sector in the next six years), while Vice President, she mobilized P 2.43 million toward youth empowerment, helping more than 391 young people from 140 youth groups.  The Angat Buhay Youth also organized seven youth summits and provided assistance for more than 46 projects that aimed to help their respective communities.  These summits mobilized the youth in getting involved in the more effective governance of their respective communities, thus preparing them for future positions at various levels of the LGUs.

          In one of the most critical areas in the next six years because of what happened during the pandemic, the OVP provided medical assistance to the marginalized, mobilizing P82.14 million for this purpose.  Its main thrust, however, in health care was towards mental health (especially problematic among the youth during the lockdowns made necessary by the pandemic) and malnutrition (victimizing especially children whose brains get damaged in their early years if they are not properly nourished).   As an example, in San Remigio, Cebu, the OVP built a mental health facility to complement the community-based mental health program of the LGU.  Through a Public-Private Partnership program, the OVP turned over assistive devices for mental health patients.  Also through the PPP route, the OVP mobilized P39.9 million for about 44 programs that focused in combatting malnutrition, especially among kids younger than five years old.  In Lambunao, Iloilo, for example, more than 800 children became part of the OVP’s feeding program from 2017 to 2020.

 Another sector that has to be assigned the highest priority by the next Administration is basic education in which the Philippines suffers from comparison with other Asian countries.  It is encouraging to observe that none other than the Vice President-elect Sara Duterte has been designated to head the Department of Education.  The incoming Secretary of Education can take the cue from her predecessor in the Vice-presidency. Robredo wanted everyone to have access to quality education, which is why her office partnered with different agencies and organizations to provide better opportunities for all.  Angat Buhay provided P122.96 million for infrastructure for education which included 81 classrooms and five dormitories for students.  Robredo, through Angat Buhay, also provided scholarship and skills training opportunities to more 120 youth, including out-of-school youth in Sumisip, Basilan; senior students in Panglao, Bohol and Malunay, Quezon; and accountancy students of Mindanao State University.  I am personal witness to the support the OVP gave to close to a hundred out-of-school youth to study at one of the leading TESDA-certified technical schools in the country, the DUALTECH Training Institute that provides training in electro-mechanical skills to high school students, enabling them to get high-paying jobs both locally and abroad such as Lufthansa Technic and similar factories owned by multinational companies.

The OVP also supported numerous sustainable livelihood and training programs to help the most impoverished sectors to cope with the economic difficulties brought about by the pandemic as well as by natural disasters like typhoons and floods.  More than P15.39 million worth of livelihood projects were turned over to 156 fisherfolks, farmers, small business owners, and riders among others.  This included 33 accredited civil society organizations and 11  nanay (mother) entrepreneurs.  Some P47.3 million worth of assets were turned over to farmers and fisherfolk, including boats, livestock, and other tools.  Angat Buhay also gave these rural dwellers access to credit institutions so that they could expand their operations.

There were other areas of poverty alleviation programs promoted by Angat Buhay such as in housing and resettlement, disaster relief and rehabilitation, and COVID-response initiatives.  I have summarized these   programs and projects of the OVP under Robredo to give an idea to the “kakampinks” that they will have unlimited opportunities to channel their concern for the common as they join Leni Robredo when she transitions to her new role as leader in the private sector of Angat Buhay, starting July 1, 2022.

As a sampling of what can be done by young professionals in their twenties and early thirties to assist Angat Buhay in giving assistance to the marginalized, let me suggest a partnership between Angat  Buhay and a very established educational foundation, Synergeia, whose vision is “a country where every child completes a good basic education and is given equal opportunities to become the best of what he/she can be.”  Its mission is “to transform how leaders govern and to empower communities to create a better life for themselves and their children.”  Synergeia’s work in educational governance system spans every level from municipalities to cities to national government.  It works with policymakers, local leaders, national and local agencies and institutions, communities at the grassroot level, and private sector partners to help them transform how they think, organize, facilitate, mobilize and execute change for improved governance, leadership and collective action.

 I can envision highly qualified young professionals volunteering to help Synergeia in mentoring thousands of elementary and high school teachers in such fields as English language skills, reading comprehension, the teaching of math and science and other fields in which our pupils do very poorly in international tests.  There is much to do to improve the quality of teaching at the basic education level.  Graduates of our higher-quality universities like the University of the Philippines, Ateneo University, De La Salle University and the University of Sto. Tomas (among those that appear in international rankings of Philippine universities) can surely devote time to helping improve the quality of teaching in our public schools in the same way that they unselfishly volunteered their time to go house to house to campaign for Leni Robredo during the last elections.  There are other private foundations devoted to improving the quality of basic education (such as the Philippine Business for Education, the PHINMA Foundation, the Metrobank Foundation) that can also benefit from the volunteer services of the “kakampinks” who now want to redirect their desire to help the common good as they follow the lead of Leni Robredo in her new movement of Angat Buhay.  Those who are still studying can also be very helpful in mentoring pupils in the public schools in those critical areas of their weaknesses, i.e., reading comprehension, math and science.  Young professionals may not have the financial resources to help the marginalized improve their incomes but they have a most valuable asset—the high quality of education that they have received in some of the best universities—to help uplift the quality of education of the children of the poor through personal mentoring and tutoring,  in the same way that many students of Catholic schools have been volunteering to teach catechism to public school pupils.  In fact, one concrete initiative that can be promoted by Angat Buhay is to give specialized short courses to young professionals to develop their skills in mentoring so that they can be more effective in helping public school pupils in improving their skills in reading comprehension, arithmetic and science.  To be continued.