Cool, calm, and collected

How refreshing it was to listen to someone so cool, calm, and collected! For a change, there were no vulgar expletives or menacing epithets, only the soothing civility of en elected official who is self-possessed and respectful.    What a pleasant respite it was to hear Vice President Leni Robredo speak about her flagship program during the recent general assembly meeting of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).

The VP has purposefully stayed under the radar since she was unceremoniously disinvited to Cabinet meetings. Minding her own mandate, she and her team have founded Angat Buhay, inaugurated officially on 10 Oct 2016,during a “Partnership Against Poverty Summit.” Yet, she has been hounded by a band of trolls spewing lies, taunting her with fake and false news. Obviously, VP Robredo has her share of evil-wishers, on top of the relentless electoral protest of a defeated candidate.  Mainstream media has all but ignored the VP, and it is probably because reporting on her non-combative, strictly professional behavior will not raise their circulation or their ratings.

I think she has wisely avoided being caught in the crossfire.  At the MAP meeting, she happily announced that she had come from a budget hearing and that Congress gave the VP’s office a modest budget increase. Then she told us about what Angat Buhay, her flagship program, has accomplished so far.

Since its inception, Angat Buhay has tied up with 250 partner organizations that have pledged their support for the first 50 cities and municipalities selected. VP Leni explained: “The program was introduced in strategic priority areas, including the provinces of Cebu and Lanao del Sur; the two have the highest poverty magnitude and poverty incidence, respectively (2015 Philippine Statistics Authority). The onslaught of typhoons, earthquakes, and man-made disasters was mitigated with over R38 million worth of donations from the Office of the Vice President and its partners through the Angat Buhay Disaster Relief Operations.”

True to her campaign promise of focusing on the needs of those in the “laylayan,” the Vice President described  “Angat Buhay” as “laylayanomics.”  Its aim is to achieve inclusive growth, soonest; progress has to be felt by those in the peripheries so Angat Buhay aims to improve the delivery of services in public education, rural development, universal health care, women empowerment, food security and nutrition, housing and resettlement.  Last year, 43,044 families and 36,032 individuals benefitted from Angat Buhay.

Convergence among Angat Buhay, its partners and the communities is vital, said the VP and she gave some examples:  Thanks to a feeding program of the Negrense Volunteers for Change Foundation in Lambunao, Iloilo,  children have steadily gained weight and body strength after only one month of eating proper food.  In Marawi City, Nanay Jamila and her community formed the Bubon Kamapian Farm Producers Cooperative, received a few carabaos, and now have a lucrative vegetable business. Zenaida Beloy, leader of the Sama Bajaus community in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, received 10 water pumps from Solana Land.Farmers from the 5th class municipality of Alabat, Quezon, Tantangan, South Cotabato, and towns in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan supply 4 million kilos of agricultural produce to Jollibee; this  should be the business model to  follow.

Because people empowerment is essential, Angat Buhay has a leadership training program, which includes the  “Istorya ng Pag-asa” which “showcases the heroism of ordinary Filipinos in order to counter the pervading narratives of negativity by inspiring hope specially among the young.”  In addition, the Angat Buhay Women Entrepreneurship  Program is inspiring mothers to help their families by becoming successful micro-entrepreneurs

VP Leni and her team started out with 50 pilot areas and the beneficiary families have increased to 79,076. In total,  R95 million has been spent to finance Angat Buhay projects.   During the MAP meeting, the Vice President acknowledged the unflappable support of the private sector.

VP Leni Robredo could not resist saying that our political and economic institutions are under attack and that people are scared yet angry about the spread of fake news.   However, she has not heard of people giving up; instead, they want to grow and thrive and these are hopeful signs. The Angat Buhay program is responsive to people’s needs, she said — “We continue to learn from our dialogues with our stakeholders.”

She also spoke about things that we already know: There should be a master plan for infrastructure, responsive to the needs of the people, not just of politicians. Foreign direct investments fell by 14%. The disconnect between industry requirements and education hinders employment generation. No new BPOs have come in and if we don’t upgrade now, we might lose that sector altogether to robotics and artificial intelligence. The LGUs should be both regulators and providers, there has to be a balance.

VP Robredo ended her presentation by inviting us to Angat Kabuhayan, which takes Angat Buhay a step further on its first anniversary.  Angat Kabuhayan  is a platform for linking communities to inclusive and high-growth enterprises in various industries.

This will be held on 17 October, at SMX Convention Center, Seashell Drive, Pasay City, from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Those interested should call 0906 443 4432 or write Let us take this bolder step with our Vice President, Leni Robredo.