Tuesday, February 20, 2024

U.S. provides P8-M to boost Philippines educ programs for out-of-school youth

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 20, 2024): U.S. provides P8-M to boost Philippines educ programs for out-of-school youth

MANILA - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded P8 million ($142,475) in grants to four Philippine higher education institutions working on innovative programs that improve the lives of Filipino out-of-school youth.

USAID Philippines Mission Director Ryan Washburn (center) hands over grant certificates to (from left) Quezon City Councilor Julienne Alyson Rae Medalla representing Quezon City University, Dr. Anicia A. Alvarez, President of Ferndale College Zamboanga Peninsula; Paulette Liu, President of School of Knowledge for Industrial Labor, Leadership and Service (SKILLS); and Oscar Sherlo Reyes, Director of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies.

Administered through USAID’s Opportunity 2.0 program, the ASPIRE (Advance and Support Philippine-International Academic Relations for Out-of-School Youth Development) grant, valued at Php2.5 million ($44,643) each, facilitates partnerships between local and U.S. institutions on out-of-school youth advancement.

De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, an ASPIRE awardee, will partner with Gallaudet University in Washington D.C to enhance training and higher education access for deaf out-of-school youth. Another ASPIRE awardee, Ferndale College in Zamboanga City, will work with Adams State University in Colorado on developing learning modules designed to engage out-of-school youth in addressing food security issues in their communities.

“Out-of-school youth deserve an equal opportunity to define the kind of life they want to live,” USAID Philippines Mission Director Ryan Washburn said. “These new grants will help create a positive environment for youth by tapping the creativity, resources, and expertise of Philippine and U.S. higher education institutions.”

Additionally, USAID awarded a Php1.5-million ($26,786) GAIN (Government-Academe-Industry Collaborative) grant to Quezon City University, which would allow the extension of their executive training course to local government officials in Pasig City and Angeles City in Pampanga. The executive course provides lessons on leadership and creating effective programs for out-of-school youth.

"Through the grant, Quezon City University is able to empower key decision makers on co-creating and implementing meaningful programs supported by their learnings through the expanded Executive Leadership course in their respective communities. We are hopeful that through the program, more leaders will be equipped with the knowledge and means to support out-of-school youth and create an inclusive environment for them," Quezon City Councilor Aly Medalla said.

Cebu City’s School of Knowledge for Industrial Labor, Leadership, and Service, Inc. (SKILLS), another recipient of the GAIN grant, will partner with the Technical Vocational Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the private sector to establish an “industry certification process” for multi-skilled out-of-school youth in the construction industry.

“The grant is valuable to SKILLS as it would enable us to implement activities that provide sustainable employment to the youth while addressing the perennial challenges in the construction industry, such as shortage of skills and negative perception on construction jobs,” SKILLS Executive Director Jessie Cubijano said.

USAID’s Opportunity 2.0 program works with local and international partners across 15 cities in the Philippines to improve the lives of out-of-school youth through further education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The project has impacted 70,000 youth through TESDA technical-vocational programs and through the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System. (Mindanao Examiner)


VP Sara: Slain soldiers in Lanao Sur died for countrymen's safety

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2024): VP Sara: Slain soldiers in Lanao Sur died for countrymen's safety (By Wilnard Bacelonia)

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte (Screenshot from DepEd FB page)

MANILA – Vice President Sara Z. Duterte on Tuesday said the six Army soldiers who recently died in an encounter with Islamic State-linked Maute Group in Lanao del Sur sacrificed their lives for the safety of Filipinos.

Duterte condoled with the families of the fallen soldiers, adding that the threat of terrorism, especially to the youth, is real.

"Ang kanilang kabayanihan ay kapalit ng kaligtasan ng mga Pilipino hindi lang sa Mindanao kundi sa buong Pilipinas (Their heroism was in exchange for the safety of Filipinos not only in Mindanao, but in the entire country)," Duterte said.

"Sa ating pakikiramay sa kanilang mga pamilya ay tandaan sana natin na totoo ang banta ng terorismo at wala itong pinipiling biktima. Tandaan din natin ang panganib ng pangangalap ng kabataan sa terorismo (In our sympathies to their families, let us be reminded that the threat of terrorism is real and chooses no one as its victim. Let us also keep in mind about the danger of the recruitment of our children to terrorism)," she added.

Duterte was mayor of Davao City when the Roxas Night Market was bombed in 2016, and the Marawi Siege in Lanao del Sur in 2017.

"Bilang isang Mindanawon, personal para sa akin ang laban na ito (As a Mindanawon, this fight is personal for me)," she said.

She urged Filipinos to unite against the "enemies" of the country and reiterated her salute to all fallen soldiers who made the "most noble" sacrifice.


PNP, firm ink pact on P20-M drones, radio equipment

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2024): PNP, firm ink pact on P20-M drones, radio equipment (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

EQUIPMENT BOOST. PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. (center) and Okada Foundation Inc. president James Lorenzana (left) show a copy of the signed memorandum of agreement at Camp Crame, Quezon City on Monday (Feb. 19, 2024). Under the pact, the PNP will get radio communication equipment, drones and drone jammers worth PHP19.9 million from the company. (Photo courtesy of PNP-PIO)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police's (PNP) operational capability is seen to get a boost with the acquisition of drones and other modern equipment.

PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. and Okada Foundation Inc. president James Lorenzana signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the purpose at Camp Crame, Quezon City on Monday, the PNP Public Information Office said in a news release on Tuesday.

Under the MOA, the PNP would get PHP9.99 million worth of radio communication equipment and PHP9.96 million worth drones and drone jammers from the company.

“By providing funds for essential equipment such as radio communication devices, drones, and jammers, we are prepared to confront the evolving challenges of modern policing,” Acorda said.

The PNP also received vehicles and television units from the Public Safety Mutual Benefit Fund Inc. (PSMBFI).

Acorda received the four Toyota Innova vehicles and 28 55-inch TV units from PSMBFI president and chief executive officer Jose Chiquito Malayo in simple rites.

The vehicles were allocated to the Philippine National Police Training Institute, Philippine National Police Academy, Explosive Ordnance Disposal/K9 Group, and Chief Executive Senior Police Officer, while the TV units were distributed to various National Support Units and National Operational Support Units.

Logistics manual

Acorda also led the launch of the police force's Logistics Policies Volume V Compendium.

The manual, published by the Directorate for Logistics, consists of various directives, policies, and protocols aimed at optimizing logistical resources.

Acorda acknowledged the Directorate for Logistics for its significant role in enhancing the PNP's operational efficiency and effectiveness.


PAF: Joint air patrol with US compliant with rules

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2024): PAF: Joint air patrol with US compliant with rules (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AIR PATROL. A Philippine Air Force FA-50 (bottom) and US B-52Hs bomber aircraft fly over the Philippine exclusive economic zone during a joint maritime cooperative activity on Monday (Feb. 19, 2024). The air patrol covered areas 90 nautical miles west of Candon, Ilocos Sur, and 50 nautical miles northwest of Lubang, Mindoro. (Photo courtesy of PAF)

MANILA – The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Tuesday said its combined air patrol with the the US Pacific Air Force over portions of the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is not directed at any country and aimed only at improving interoperability between the two services.

"As pronounced by HQS AFP (Headquarters Armed Forces of the Philippines) the MCA (maritime cooperative activity) is in no way directed towards any country and the activity is in accordance with the international rules based order, as we were operating within our territory and within the Philippines' EEZ," PAF spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said in a message to reporters.

The reaction was issued following China's statement that the Philippines "stirred up trouble" in the South China Sea through its joint air patrol with the US.

Monday's combined air patrol covered areas 90 nautical miles west of Candon, Ilocos Sur and 50 nautical miles northwest of Lubang, Occidental Mindoro.

Three PAF FA-50s accompanied one B-52H bomber aircraft of the US Pacific Air Force from the west of Ilocos Sur until Mindoro Strait.

The air patrol is part of the third iteration of the US-Philippines MCA that began Feb. 9.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad said the air component of the activity "demonstrates the commitment of both Armed Forces to enhancing interoperability and advancing regional peace and security in the Indo-Pacific".

He added that the activity also beefs up the capability of the AFP to perform its mandate and maintain its presence over the Philippines’ EEZ.


Senator asks OPAPRU to ensure Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants' proper use of cash aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2024): Senator asks OPAPRU to ensure Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants' proper use of cash aid (By Wilnard Bacelonia)

DECOMMISSIONED COMBATANTS. Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rex Gatchalian (seated, center in red polo shirt) engages decommissioned combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in an open dialogue during the resumption of the Phase 3 Decommissioning of  Moro Islamic Liberation Front members in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao del Norte on Aug. 4, 2023. Gatchalian also led the distribution of PHP100,000 cash assistance. (Photo courtesy of DSWD)

MANILA – Senator Raffy Tulfo has asked the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) to include in the decommissioning process the requirement for Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants to sign a document assuring that the PHP100,000 cash aid they get would be properly spent.

Tulfo, in a public hearing of the Committee on Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation Tuesday, asked OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. to strengthen the implementation of the ongoing decommissioning process.

"Ang purpose ng PHP100,000, tatlo lang po (The PHP100,000 has only three purposes): for food support; non-food support such as hygiene kits, family kits, kitchen kits, sleeping kits, shelter kits; and special various needs of vulnerable family members such as children, older persons, persons with disability," Tulfo said, noting that the cash assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should not be used in buying another firearm.

"Kaya dapat pinapapirma ninyo sila para kung dumating 'yung time na nakita niyo na binili pala ng firearms, pwede niyo silang kasuhan (That's why you need to require them to sign so when the time comes that you see them use the money to buy firearms, you can file a case)," he added.

In response, Galvez informed the panel the transformation of Moro Islamic Liberation Front communities in the normalization process.

The decommissioned combatants, he said, undergo a case management process to ensure that the cash assistance they receive is properly used.

Galvez said the OPAPRU, through DSWD, hired case workers to monitor and manage the status of decommissioned combatants and assess their status, which is crucial in developing socioeconomic interventions for them, their families and communities.

He said OPAPRU is set to partner with the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos to give the combatants an option to take the Hajj pilgrimage in exchange for their firearms.

"'Yung lahat po ng strategy na pwede po nating makuha 'yung mga illegally possessed firearms ay gagawin po natin (We will use all strategies to secure all illegally possessed firearms)," Galvez said.

The Senate launched the inquiry after reports from local chief executives in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that there were alleged irregularities in the decommissioning process.

One of the reported anomalies as cited by Senator Jinggoy Estrada was the alleged cut of Moro Islamic Liberation Front commanders from the cash assistance that the combatants receive.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Implementing Panel Secretariat Mahajirin Ali expressed his doubt about the matter but assured that they would never tolerate such practice.


PPP, whole-of-nation approach benefiting folks in far-flung areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 20, 2024): PPP, whole-of-nation approach benefiting folks in far-flung areas (By Liza Agoot)

SKILLS TRAINING. The second batch of trainees under the “Panag-aywan iti Kailyan”, an anti-insurgency program of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion of the Police Regional Office-Cordillera. The program provides skills training and certification to a total of 106 individuals, who belong to six batches, from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas in the region. (PNA photo courtesy of RMFB 15)

BAGUIO CITY – Andy Mariano Masi, 49, a resident of a far-flung village in Tabuk City, Kalinga, used to plant rice on a 2,500-square-meter property where he got a percentage of the proceeds that could barely sustain the needs of his family.

This was until he was found by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and was included in its anti-insurgency program as a beneficiary.

Masi has four kids but only those in Grades 11 and 12 are currently enrolled, saying “because I cannot afford to continue sending them (the younger ones) to school.”

He said transportation fare going to Bulanao where the school is located is PHP50, an amount which is difficult for him to provide given the lack of income.

Masi said they survive on planting rice, bananas and vegetables on the less than half a hectare area they till, and pay rice harvest as a rental to the lot owner.

“The harvest can hardly provide our needs, just enough for food for the family,” he said in Ilocano, a local dialect.

Thus, Masi was glad for his inclusion in the “Panag-aywan iti Kailyan” (caring for fellowmen) program of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 15 (RMFB).

He is among the 106 individuals from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) areas of the region who were provided with free training on construction by the Police Regional Office-Cordillera’s partner, Career Builders Skills Training and Assessment Center, based in the province of Pangasinan.

The beneficiaries, some of whom are former rebels, relatives of former rebels, Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) members and out-of-school youths, were assisted in obtaining a National Certification from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and were linked to a company that is now providing them decent employment with social benefits.

Masi said he got sick and was hospitalized, but did not spend any amount for this.

He said the skills training center also committed to help while he is recovering by providing funds for his family to put up a small store and sustain their needs.

“I am thankful to the government’s program and for bringing us to Career Builders because this is giving us a chance for a better life. I hope to recover and use the skills I acquired so that I can continue to provide for my family’s needs. Hopefully, my two other children can return to school soon,” he added.

Jose Chan, Executive Director of the Career Builders Skills Training and Assessment Center, said they partnered with PROCor upon hearing of the program to help improve the condition of the disadvantaged residents in the provinces, including those in GIDA and the former rebels or their relatives.

“We help because we also get assistance from other groups, which is a good example of all sectors -- government, private and the community, working hand-in-hand for their fellowmen,” he told the Philippine News Agency.

Chan is confident that with the quality of training they provide, the trainees will be able to find jobs.

“We encourage them to stay for at least two years to acquire the necessary document of training and the experience required to qualify for work abroad,” he said.

Aside from training and placement, Career Builders and PROCor’s partnership also includes the reconstitution of the trainees’ official documents since most of them are unregistered and are without identification documents.

Col. Ruel Tagel, chief of the RMFB 15, in a separate interview, said the program provides a holistic approach given its three components namely education program, bayanihan (serve by extending a helping hand), and livelihood.

Tagel said the program, which is an anti-insurgency stance, aims to make the presence of the government felt by sustaining the livelihood of a person, thereby preventing them from joining the communist terrorist organization.

"We do not want to just give and continue giving. We want them to take part, to own up to their contribution in making their lives better, which is a sustainability measure that we are inculcating in the minds of the participants,” he said.

“The best proof of sustainability is for them to later on be on their own,” he added.