Wednesday, February 18, 2009

21st Visayas Annual Membership Meeting

21st Visayas Annual Membership Meeting
Wednesday, February 18, 2009, Casino Español de Cebu, Cebu City

Corporate Citizenship in the Face of Challenges

Cebu Daily News
18 February 2009

The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) in the Visayas is holding its 21st Visayas Annual Membership Meeting (VAMM) today, February 18, 2009, at the Salon de España, Casino Español de Cebu, Cebu City. The theme of the 21st VAMM is “Corporate Citizenship in the Face of Challenges.” PBSP is a private and non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting business sector commitment to social development.

More than a decade ago, the Philippines was also gripped by the Asian Economic Crisis, which retrenched thousands of workers. At that time, PBSP was implementing the Metro Cebu High Growth Area Program. Our goal then was to equip Cebuano workers with skills that would match the requirements of new industries, majority of which focused on exports. The financial crash turned the city’s priority on its head with the issue no longer on the quality of workers, but the availability of jobs itself.

PBSP responded to the challenge and launched the Metro Cebu Workforce Development and Education Program (MCWDEP). PBSP organized the retrenched workers into workers’ cooperatives. Today, assisted coops continue to earn income through production of furniture, fashion accessories and house wares, food processing, and community-based enterprises. MCWDEP is one of eight poverty reduction programs managed by PBSP in the Visayas.

Promoting Corporate Citizenship in the Visayas

The commitment of the Visayas business sector to PBSP’s efforts in the region became indelible with the creation of the Visayas Executive Committee in 1987. The following year, the PBSP Visayas Regional Office was opened. By 1989, PBSP partnered with the Cebu City Government and Cebu business sector for the Cebu Hillyland Development Program to address two challenges – poverty and environmental degradation in the hillylands. Through the years, 12 more provinces in the Visayas were reached through 1,400 projects worth P498.9 million.

Poverty reduction in Cebu

In the Cebu hillylands, the Cebu Watershed Management Program is making positive changes in the lives of 2,500 families. Before, hillylands residents were unaware of the high value crops that can be yielded by their vast agricultural lands. With PBSP’s assistance, they now produce high value vegetables, cutflowers, abaca and organic fertilizers,and raise livestock to augment their income.

More than 5,000 hectares have been reforested through partnerships with business, government, donor agencies and communities. In 2008, the Save the Buhisan Watershed Project was launched. PBSP aims to rehabilitate Buhisan, provide income opportunities for its poor residents, and transform it into an eco-tourism destination.

The Metro Cebu Workforce Development and Education Program (MCWDEP) continues to assist workers cooperatives and community-based organizations. Under the quality education advocacy of MCWDEP, PBSP supports the high school division of the Science and Technology Education Center, which pools together the best elementary graduates and provides them with information and communication technology (ICT)-based instructions recommended by the business community.

Meanwhile, Coalition for Better Education brings together representatives from business, academe, government and civil society to improve the education curriculum, hones teachers for competence in ICT for education, in teaching Science, Mathematics, English and values, and involves the larger community as education stakeholders.

PBSP further responded to poverty and environmental degradation in Olango Island. Through the Olango Island Development Program, PBSP provides family health services such as medicines, consultations, feeding and family planning counseling while sanitary toilets and potable water systems were constructed. Twenty hectares of mangrove sites have been reforested while environmental education is taught in the island’s public elementary schools.

In 2008, PBSP in partnership with the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association and Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, held the first Olango Challenge: Swim for A Cause. Seventy-three swimmers crossed the five-kilometer wide Gilutungan channel to vie for gold, raise funds for livelihood and education projects, promote environmental conservation and educate the public about the importance of swimming.

Rebuilding lives through sustainable disaster response

In 2006, the landslide in St. Bernard, Southern Leyte almost buried the dreams of people in the village of Guinsaugon. PBSP and its donors and partners helped the landslide survivors spring back to life through productive activities such as the production of concrete hollow blocks and bamboo-based furniture, skills training on masonry and carpentry, vermiculture, growing of vegetables and ornamental plants, and processing of food and virgin coconut oil. Water, education and other basic social services were channeled to the rehabilitation site so the survivors are encouraged to start their lives anew.

The Southern Leyte Rehabilitation Program also made mariculture a viable livelihood option in the community. Today, Guinsaugon survivors have made St. Bernard an important supplier of large quantities of milkfish and high value fish species in Region 8.

In August 2006, a massive oil spill in the island province of Guimaras affected its primary source of income: fishing. PBSP provided alternative livelihood projects such as vegetable growing and hog raising. The people now also grow and market seaweeds to areas like Cebu.

In June 2008, Typhoon Frank ravaged Iloilo. Among the ravaged areas were the rice bowls of the province. In response, PBSP provided immediate relief assistance. As a long-term support, PBSP provided rice farmers access to financial assistance for training, technical support, and marketing of farm yields.

Innovative marine and upland technologies

Bohol used to be one of the poorest provinces in the country and the limited knowledge in farm productivity was one of the main causes of poverty. PBSP responded by implementing projects on palay trading and rice farming, which transformed the farmers into net rice exporters. Vegetable growing, livestock raising, agroforestry and consumer store operations were also introduced while households have accessed water for irrigation and domestic use.

Samar is the home of PBSP’s innovative Coastal and Upland Technology Testing and Verification Center. The center is located along Maqueda Bay, which provides food to 14 towns in Western Samar. The center has a multi-species hatchery containing fish fry and fingerlings that have high market values. Counteracting the depletion of Maqueda Bay, the center tests and validates culture systems of high value marine species. Tested technologies are adapted by fisher folk yielding for them better income.

Planting the seed of Corporate Citizenship

The eight ARM programs in the Visayas reached 27,000 families in 2008 alone. After 21 years in the Visayas, PBSP commits itself to more years of business empowering the poor. In the face of challenges, PBSP will continue planting the seeds of corporate citizenship to realize a collective goal – a better life for all Filipinos.

The establishment of PBSP in 1970 was a revolutionary move by the Philippine business community---strategic response to the socio-economic turmoil of the times. Fifty of the country’s top business leaders consolidated their efforts to uplift the quality of life of the Filipino poor through PBSP. Since then, PBSP’s programs on livelihood and enterprise development, health and water, education and environmental conservation have reached four million Filipinos.

In 2008, PBSP’s membership grew to 238 companies from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. PBSP members contributed P75.84 million, which were leveraged to generate additional P247.60 million from donor agencies and other partners. More than 200,000 poor Filipinos benefited from PBSP’s grants and financial assistance in 2008 that reached P300.92 million.

PBSP’s Area Resource Management (ARM) Program

The Area Resource Management (ARM) is PBSP’s flagship poverty reduction program. ARM provides sustainable livelihood opportunities and enterprise development support to disadvantaged groups---landless rural workers, sustenance and marginal farmers and fisherfolk, disaster victims, and urban poor.

To ensure sustainability, ARM employs an integrated approach involving provision of access of the poor to basic social services, environmental conservation, livelihood generation, and creation of cooperatives and community-based organizations that will eventually implement the projects on their own when PBSP phases out.

Eight ARM programs are currently implemented in Cebu, Western Samar, Bohol, Guimaras, Southern Leyte, and Iloilo.