Saturday, February 05, 2011

Businessmen urged to share their wealth

Businessmen urged to share their wealth
By Paolo Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
February 5, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The widening gap between the rich and poor calls for an equal, if not greater, response from local businesses to help raise the living standards of families at the “bottom of the pyramid.”

The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), one of the country’s biggest umbrella organizations for corporate charity work, has since called on its members to ramp up efforts to spread the wealth and let it trickle down to those living below the poverty line.
Unique opportunity

The group’s chair, Manuel V. Pangilinan, said the new government, under a president who enjoys record high approval ratings here and abroad, presented an opportunity for the state, local companies and the international community to get together to bring about true social reform the country badly needs.

“A new government gives us new hope—the scope for public/private sector partnership in social development can be unprecedented and exceptional,” Pangilinan said in a speech at the recent PBSP 40th anniversary celebration.

PBSP counts among its members some of the country’s biggest companies like San Miguel Corp., Smart Communications and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“PBSP’s unique role is to work with the government, the private sector, and foreign donors in pursuing our founders’ mandate of ‘divine conspiracy for development,’” according to Pangilinan, who also chairs PLDT.

Since it was founded four decades ago, PBSP has succeeded in helping millions of people, he said.

The group boasts of more than 6,500 projects in health, education, livelihood and environment. It also released P5.2 billion in grants and donations that had been used to improve the lives of over 6.4 million people in the last 40 years.

“All throughout the country lies ample and tangible proof of our good work,” he said.

During his speech, Pangilinan cited the example of Dindo Pagatpat, a Cebuano farmer who has been planting corn and potatoes since he was 12 years old.

With PBSP’s help, Pagatpat was able to switch to high-value crops, enabling him to build a house, send his kids to school and buy a vehicle that he uses for his business.

Another PBSP success story is Jayson Ferariza, a young volunteer at a tuberculosis clinic run by PBSP.

Ferariza helps out at the facility without pay because he himself used to be stricken with tuberculosis, Pangilinan said.

The medicines he helps hand out are too expensive for poor people like him to buy. But with the global fund—channeled through PBSP—more Filipinos were able to recover from this dreadful disease.

The institution’s innovative solutions, such as the provision of livelihood that PBSP’s Maqueda bay fishpond project in Samar undertakes, stand out as another sterling example of how the organization has contributed to lasting change.

But Pangilinan warned that the PBSP’s achievements did not mean its members could rest on their laurels just yet.

“Poverty today has grown so large, and has become more complex, compared to what it was 40 years ago. Our response to its alleviation must change correspondingly,” he said.

“Grants and donations must increase ... [enough to] make a difference.”

The support which the global fund and the US Agency for International Development provide to combat tuberculosis in the last few years is “an outstanding example,” Pangilinan pointed out.

But if poverty alleviation were to matter, PBSP would have to raise the level of grants and donations to between P4 billion and P5 billion in the next five years, compared with the P1.8 billion over the last 5 years, he said.

“[While] our members and their contribution have risen over the years, we will need to rely on foreign donors for majority of our funding at a foreign-to-domestic ratio of 4:1,” he said.

Pangilinan expressed hope that with the help of the new administration, the organization would be able to meet its goals.

“Thirty years ago, a young man in his early 20s named Noynoy Aquino joined PBSP as executive assistant to then executive director Ernie Garilao,” Pangilinan revealed.

“I’m sure that his invaluable experience helped shape the future President’s deep sense of compassion for the poor and the deprived. We are honored to have one of us placed in a position to make a real difference for our country.... The poor are part of us; and us, a part of them.”