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16/07/2012: Gawad Kalinga and Manila Water Open Doors to Outstanding Fil-Am Leaders

16 July 2012, Washington DC. Participants of the Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FAYLP) visited selected project sites yesterday that are responding to the important areas of community development and environmental protection.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. led the group that traveled to Bulacan, where they visited the Gawad Kalinga’s (GK) Enchanted Farm.  GK’s founder, Mr. Antonio “Tony” Meloto, hosted the delegation and, among other topics, spoke of the Center for Social Information (CSI), the social entrepreneurship program of GK.  The group saw for themselves, in a Philippine setting, “how the mindset of young people could be transformed from merely jobseekers to wealth makers,” using Mr. Meloto’s words.

The Enchanted Farm is the first of GK’s twenty-four CSI sites around the Philippines.  The area is being transformed into a landscape of vast potential that will sustain communities for the next generations.  The first farm village was created with the help of students from Ateneo and De La Salle Universities, as well as the involvement of French interns from the top business schools in France.  The French interns encouraged the Filipinos in the community to appreciate their resources, cultivate them, and embrace their culture.  Jean Marko from Paris shared that he used to be an investment banker, but later became involved in social entrepreneurship.  He said that he found "two-way satisfaction-personal and community satisfaction” in what he does.

GK collaborates with the private sector, such as Shell for investments in road and other infrastructure and Hyundai for its transport needs, as well as the public sector, like the Department of Agrarian Reform for raw materials and soil analysis.  The farm was able to introduce to the local market products made by the community such as the EnchanTea purple tea, which is made from camote leaves, lemongrass and calamansi, foodgrade salted eggs replacing the red salted egg, chocolates, and Sulu coffee.  Profits from the sale of these products go to education programs and other initiatives such as funding for teachers.

Ambassador Jose Cuisia (leftmost) converses with Mr. Tony Meloto (second from left), GK Founder, as the FAYLP participants look at the products made at the Enchanted Farm.

After lunch in the farm, the FAYLP delegation visited the Manila Water site in Taguig City, where they were given a tour of its facilities and a briefing on the history, structure, projects and programs of the globally recognized company.  In his presentation, Mr. Ferdinand de la Cruz, Group Director of Manila Water’s East Zone Business and Corporate Strategic Affairs, enumerated the company’s three goals in its sustainability framework:  empower people, protect the environment, and enhance sustainable development.

FAYLP participants listen to a briefing on the Manila Water’s projects (left).  At right, the group in appropriate attire ready to tour Manila Water’s facilities.

A subsidiary of Philippine conglomerate Ayala Corporation, Manila Water was given the distinction by Finance Asia as being among Asia’s Best Companies in 2011, ranked second best in the continent for its corporate social responsibility efforts and third for corporate governance.  In 2011, 99% (or 6.1 million of its customers) had 24/7 water availability, whereas in 1997, the figure was only 26% (3.1million customers).

The FAYLP was initiated by Ambassador Cuisia as part of his advocacy to involve the youth in the affairs of the Filipino American community.  With the support of the Philippine Consulates General in Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, the program involved the search for 10 young individuals in the U.S., who are being tapped as future leaders.  Among the criteria used to evaluate the applicants were their scholastic achievements and other accolades, leadership skills and accomplishments, active involvement in school or civic organizations, as well as vision and commitment in helping their communities and the Philippines.  The FAYLP delegates are Melissa Apuya, Louella Cabalona, JR Calanoc, Greg Cendana, Alex de Ocampo, Angela Lagdameo, Steven Raga, Francine Maigue, Michael Vea and Katrina Zulueta.  The program’s sponsors include the Ayala Corporation, Chevron, Philam Life, Phinma Foundation, Ayala Foundation, and Makati Business Club. (END)