Fueling a brighter future for PH
The already considerable toll on the Philippine economy caused by the raging COVID-19 pandemic and the severe lockdowns imposed to contain the disease continues to rise, with more Filipinos forced out of work and businesses either closing down or mightily struggling to survive.
Not all is bleak, however, as individuals and institutions have come together to fight not just the pandemic but the rising sense of hopelessness and desperation. By marshaling their resources and expertise, they hope to help Filipinos cope with the pandemic and prepare them for when the country will finally emerge from the twin health and economic crises.
One such institution is Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI), the social arm of the Shell companies in the Philippines that has been in operation since 1982 with the mission to implement programs “designed to build capacities to promote self-reliance and develop the potentials of its beneficiaries, both individuals and communities.” Rather than slow down in the face of the pandemic that has also adversely affected the group’s operations, PSFI stepped up and embarked on innovative programs geared toward the fulfillment of its vision to enable the disadvantaged become “productive and responsible” members of Philippine society, strengthen community systems and thereby contribute to the country’s sustainable program. Among the latest of these initiatives is the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA)with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) under which PSFI seeks to have hundreds of Filipinos certified in key skills that they can use to support their families.
The agreement signed late last month is the latest in a series of collaborations between PSFI and Tesda that started just two years after PSFI was established. The resulting Sanayan sa Kakayahang Industriyal (SKIL) ended up being among its long running programs.
PSFI executive director Sebastian Quiniones Jr. said in a speech during the MOA signing late last month that SKIL “was a fitting response to the widespread unemployment problem among productive youth and the growing demand for middle-level craftsmen here and overseas during those years.”
SKIL continues to support deserving out-of-school youth through training in various technical courses such as automotive mechanic and servicing, consumer electronics, structural welding, pipe-fitting and small engine, refrigeration and air-condition report, among others.
“Through our collaboration with Tesda, we have supported over 6,000 out-of-school youth,” Quiniones said.
Realizing the need to hone the youth’s skills in agri-related skills as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PSFI and Tesda collaborated once again to shore up support for the Shell Training Farm in Bombon, Camarines Sur province, where farmers are trained in inbred rice production, seed certification and farm mechanization under the rice competitive enhancement fund. “We are using our training farm now to assist local mothers. It is about solving the problem with malnutrition through home gardening to help improve food security,” Quiniones told the Inquirer, “We also went for a holistic approach in that Manila Water became a partner for their hygiene program and then with World Vision for the comprehensive feeding program and then we got UP (University of the Philippines) Los Baños to assist in doing the impact assessment to make sure that what we are doing is sustainable.” “Our plan is to see that the methodology can be scaled in a bigger way by also bringing in more partners,” he said.
This program jibes with the SKIL-Sanayan sa Agrikultura project that has already graduated over 18,000 scholars since 1985 when PSFI kicked off the program in Negros Occidental which at that time was struggling with hunger and malnutrition.
“We just really wanted to help by being an enabler for different people and communities,” said Quiniones.
And for PSFI, helping means investing time and energy in making sure that the development program being rolled out is suited to the needs of the target community. There is no one single program that is implemented in exactly the same way across communities, realizing that each province or town has different needs. In Camarines Sur, for example, the primary need is food security. And then in Batangas, the need is to provide new skills to the workers that have been displaced by the transformation of the refinery into an import facility. Then in Tacloban and Tagbilaran, the communities sought more help in fishing while in Palawan, the programs are geared toward going up the food value chain to include processing of excess produce. In Pililla, meanwhile, PSFI helped farmers upgrade their produce so that they can earn more from their land and labor.
Key to success
“We recognize that each area has nuances that will require different execution modes,” Quiniones said, “We really tailor our programs to the needs of our target communities.”
Key to the success of these programs is the close collaboration and coordination with like-minded organizations.
Among the most recent partnerships is the one forged in Cagayan de Oro by PSFI and Green Antz, which transforms plastic waste into hollow blocks which are in turn used as construction materials in Shell mobility sites.
PSFI also worked together with the SIBBAP Multipurpose Cooperative’s Garments Hub, which produces face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment suits which are being sold to Shell’s retail stations, Shell facilities and other industries.
Sense of fulfillment
PSFI provided the cooperative with the appropriate training on entrepreneurship, cooperative development, garments production and provided small loan capital to start up the garments manufacturing business.
From producing the simple school uniforms and mattresses, at the height of the pandemic SIBBAP was upskilled through Shell LiveWIRE, Shell’s flagship enterprise development program, to produce face masks, which are now sold in over 100 Shell Retail stations in the country. SIBBAP is an accredited supplier of Pilipinas Shell and is currently supplying specialized fire-retardant clothing required for workers in the Shell Batangas facility.
Quiniones said, however, that while PSFI is proud of the technical programs that it rolls out, what gives the group that extra sense of fulfillment is the imparting of values that go a long way in making the scholars not just beneficiaries but future leaders as well. “We do not just focus on the technical side. We are also proud of our Leadership Enhancement and Attitudinal Development program, which our scholars say is what they remember most from the program. It is during the three-day program where they get to reflect on where they are, who they are and where they want to go,” Quiniones said.
“This has always been the Shell way, the building of heart and character,” Quiniones said.
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