IsraAid, an NGO of professionals from Israel, had immersed itself with the people of Ormoc right after typhoon Yolanda hit the country almost three years ago.

They initially flew to assist in relief and rescue operations but stayed on to teach people how to farm using protective structures (greenhouses) and drip irrigation.

Today, the people of Ormoc have learned to move on with their lives after having undergone psychosocial interventions from IsraAid workers.

They have trained community leaders and educators on methods to deal with personal and communal trauma from losing loved ones to the super howler and how to make their lives now more productive and sustainable.

IsraAid has been operating quietly in 35 disaster-stricken areas in South America, Africa, Europe, China, Japan and the Philippines. In every crisis, it sends its experts to these countries.

“We are here to stay and we will offer our expertise to any local government or groups working to better the lives of those in the marginalized sectors of society” Netanel Nisan, the 4th country director of IsraAid said.

In the Philippines, IsraAid has 3 to 5 experts (including Nisan), who are teaching the local farmers and agricultural extension workers on proper resource management, how to optimize planting productivity and yields using greenhouse technology and drip irrigation for which Israel is noted.

Eventually, these experts would also be teaching the people post-harvest techniques to get better revenues from their farm produce and not continue to be victimized by traders and loan sharks.

They have also rehabilitated school buildings and health centers that have been devastated by the howler, again using Israel technologies that could withstand the ravages of climatic aberrations.

To ensure that the communities they teach sustain the programs, IsraAid operates with a board (composed of public or government operators and private company- partners and the academe) to propagate these technologies not just in Ormoc but in other places of the Philippines that would like to adapt these technologies.

Eventually, we see the country director of IsraAid in the Philippines as a Filipino, no longer an Israeli, Nisan said.

Nisan said IsraAid’s goal is to ensure that someday, these technologies will be spread not by Israelis but by the local farmer-program partners themselves initially with neighbring barangays and other provinces near and far.

“I am impressed that people in Ormoc are now producing much bigger fruits and vegetables that they are able to sell in their supermarkets and those of their neighboring provinces and these agricultural products are not seasonal but are produced year-round so they have incomes the whole year as well” Barbara Gordon de los Reyes, IsraAid board member, said

Israel, one of the most advanced nations in Southwest Asia and the Middle East is one of the most literate nations in the world. In 2010, it joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development composed of high –income economies and Israel is ranked 3rd in the region and 38th worldwide in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.

In 2010, Israel ranked 17th in the world’s most economically developed nations and its economy is reputed as the most durable in the face of crises. (Rose de la Cruz)

By Rosemarie Señora

SOCIAL Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo should observe greater vigilance and lead the initiatives and programs that would help prevent abuse and protect our children.

Otherwise, Dr. Jose Rizal’s quote that the youth is the hope of the future would be rendered useless.

Recent statistics provided by the DSWD showed that for the first quarter of this year, it has already recorded as many as 2,147 cases more than one-fourth of which was of a sexual nature.

The figure was already nearly half of the total 4,374 child abuse cases reported in the entire year of 2015, according to DSWD’s Policy Development and Planning Bureau.

Number of cases

Of all the cases documented for the first three months of 2016, most of the children were victims of sexual abuse with 539 cases; followed by neglect, with 514 cases; abandonment, with 487 cases; sexual exploitation, 233 cases, and trafficking, 214 cases.

There were also 83 cases of physical abuse and maltreatment, 47 cases of illegal recruitment, and 13 cases of child labor, the DSWD said.

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes any form of sexual activity with a minor while child sexual exploitation is the sexual abuse of children and youth in exchange for food, shelter, protection, money and other basic necessities.

PH top source of child pornography

Sexual exploitation also includes involving children and youth involved in the production of pornographic materials and sexually explicit websites.

Just last month, UNICEF said that Philippines is the number one global source of child pornography” and the “epicenter of the live-stream sexual abuse trade.”

“There are no limits to how cruel and gross this business is—and it’s a billion, billion-dollar business,” said Lotta Sylwander, head of the UN children’s agency UNICEF in the Philippines.

Forced by relatives

What is even painful about these kinds of crimes is that children as young as five or six are forced by their mothers and fathers or close relatives to perform lewd acts several times a day in front of a webcam, for an hour at a time, as buyers in different time zones come online.

Sylwander said the live-streaming of child sex had surged in the Philippines because of the high level of English, good Internet access and well-established money transfer systems that Filipinos working overseas use to send earnings home.

She said that the biggest obstacle is not the government and the police – ‘it’s getting the internet providers to come along and say we will help you track (and) stop this’.

Citizens help needed

For her part, DSWD Secretary Taguiwalo said they are intensifying programs to stop child abuse.

Programs include information dissemination against child abuse and implementation of psychosocial interventions geared toward the recovery, healing and reintegration of victims-survivors.

“We want to promote a society where the rights of Filipino children are respected and protected. We cannot do this alone without the help of citizens who are concerned for our children’s welfare,” Taguiwalo said.

Rather than just posting about them on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the public is also encouraged to take a more “proactive response” in reporting child abuse cases to authorities.

Even the victims may file the complaint or on their behalf, their parent or legal guardian, relatives, barangay chair, social workers, or at least three concerned citizens.

Under the law, any person who reports a child abuse case shall be assured of confidentiality and anonymity, and be free from civil and administrative liability. (With reports from Philippine Daily Inquirer)

By Rosemarie Señora

WITH the Supreme Court rejecting consolidated appeal for a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction stopping the program’s implementation, there is really no stopping the K-12 full implementation this year.

Despite the fears of critics and the Department of Education admitting that it is not yet entirely ready, the program continued with high hopes of working around its flaws.

Now, the remaining question is: will the program be successful as the government has planned or the worst fears of its critics will turn into reality?

K-12 PROGRAM

Signed into law by then President Benigno Aquino III, Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, more commonly known as the K-12 program, adds two more years to the previous 10-year education system in the country plus the kindergarten level.

With K-12 program, students will be required to undergo kindergarten, Grades 1 to 6 (elementary), Grades 7 to 10 (junior high school) and Grades 11 to 12 (senior high school)—in all 13 years—before they can receive a high school diploma.

The curriculum for grades 1 to 7 was rolled out last S.Y. 2012-2013 and a year after that, grades 2 and 8 were introduced.

Under the senior high school (SHS) which is a two-year specialized upper secondary education, students get to choose a specialization based on aptitude, interests and school capacity.

These are the subjects that will give students the competencies and advanced skills required in college or tech-voc education, entrepreneurship, employment and, most important, life.

The choice of career track will define the content of the subjects a student will take in Grades 11 and 12.

The four tracks are Academic; Technical-Vocational-Livelihood; Sports; and Arts and Design.

Under the academic track are three strands: Business, Accountancy, Management (ABM); Humanities and Social Science (HUMMS); and Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and the General Academic Strand (GAS) – which will help students prepare for their choice of course in college.

The TVL track also has four strands: Home Economics (HE), Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Agri-Fishery Arts and Industrial Arts.

DISTURBING STATISTICS

This year, those who finished their fourth year in high school under the old curriculum are supposed to be enrolled as Grade 11 students under the program.

But current statistics are disturbing – there are only 862,000 students who are now in Grade 11, way below the projected 1.4 million students supposed to enter Grade 11 in both private and public high schools.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has expressed worries about the looming “crisis” of increasing the ranks of out-of-school youth in the country for students who could not continue their education due to K-12.

The drop-out rates can be influenced by several factors, the top of which is the financial capacity of families to send their children to school.

PROBLEMS

Admit it or not, not everyone has prepared well for the K-12.

Classrooms, teachers/instructors, teaching materials – these are already some of the existing problems even before the K-12 implementation.

According to data provided by the DepEd, there is a shortage of 34,000 classrooms for students during the first year of the K-12 implementation.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED), meanwhile, estimates that a total of 86,001 faculty members in private higher education institutions are at risk of being displaced when students start senior high school.

For the students, these are the least of their concerns. They have to think first of how their parents will be able to send them to schools in the first place.

Though there are options available for low-income students to apply for voucher aid from DepEd, or to avail the Alternative Learning School and TESDA skills training for immediate employment after graduation, these are obviously not enough especially for families living below poverty level.

PRIVATIZATION

Another pressing concern is the ‘privatization’ of the education system in the country.

Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan national chairperson, said the K-12 program is actually a “privatized” program which will force more parents to pay private school rates for education.

The DepEd aims to accommodate 800,000 to 1.1 million or only about half of the 2.2 million students currently taking up 4th year but only 3,839 of the 7,976 or only 48% of public high schools have been submitted for K-12 funding and construction.

“This will mean majority of schools to offer senior high will be private schools, making it a privatized program and giving greater power to private schools to further hike tuition. About a million students will either be forced to enrol in private schools and be made to pay higher tuition rates or drop-out,” he said.

In 2015, DepEd has announced its approval of the tuition increases of more than 1200 private schools in the country.

Tuition rates are set to increase by as much as 29%, according to DepEd.

The vouchers offered by DepEd will not be enough to cover all fees and expenses, as these amount to only P8,750 to a maximum of P22,500 per student and tuition fees in private schools cost around P35,000 to as P80,000 per year.

Other expenses like transportation, food and miscellaneous costs which are not covered by the vouchers will be shouldered by the students.

HOUSE PROBE

1-Ang Edukasyon party-list Rep. Salvador Belaro Jr. recently filed Resolution No. 75 before the House of Representatives, seeking an investigation in aid of legislation by the committees on basic education and higher and technical education on the full implementation of the K-12 program under the Enhanced Basic Education Act.

“This resolution aims to get an official report from Department of Education (DepEd) as to the problems it encountered upon the opening of the Senior High School Program, so that we in Congress may pass supportive or corrective legislative measures,” Belaro told reporters.

 

SENATOR Loren Legarda has filed a bill seeking to create the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD) which aims to address the country’s housing needs and other related issues through an efficient and holistic national shelter program.

“The Philippine housing sector is replete with enormous challenges, spanning the issues of ever-increasing need for affordable housing provisions, limited access to housing finance, the need for more sustainable housing solutions, and the need to relocate families and households to safer grounds on account of increasing threats of disasters,” Legarda stressed.

“The DHUD’s primary focus is on the access to and affordability of housing and related basic services vital to human needs. It will be responsible in shepherding a more coordinated and efficient national shelter program,” she added.

Legarda said the country needs a more integrated approach in addressing housing needs, adding that with the creation of a housing department, the government will be able to address urbanization and its challenges with greater efficiency and capacitate local government units to effectively respond to the growing needs of urban and rural poor dwellers.

Under Senate Bill No. 37, the DHUD will act as the primary national government entity responsible for the management of housing and urban development. It will undertake the functions of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the planning and regulatory functions of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).

The measure also provides the creation of Social Housing One-Stop Processing Centers (SHOPCs) in the regions, which shall be responsible for the centralized processing and issuance of all required housing-related permit, clearances and licenses.

Former MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino. Photo from Fashion Pulis

RUMORS abound in the four corners of Malacañang Palace that former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino is hot on the comeback trail and is ready to assume his former post once the one year ban imposed on him for running in the last elections has elapsed.

The rumors further gained traction after the Duterte administration decided to extend the services of Atty. Emerson Carlos who ‘will continue to serve as the head of MMDA until his replacement is named’.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea reportedly signed the letter informing Carlos that he remains MMDA chair until a new Chairman is appointed.

”In the exigency of service, please be informed that you are hereby designated as Officer-In-Charge, Metro Manila Development Authority. You are hereby ordered to continue to perform the functions of the office and ensure the continuous delivery of public services, until a Chairman is appointed,” Medialdea said in his letter.

Carlos, a protégé of Tolentino stepped down from his post last June 30.

Tolentino served as MMDA chair under the Aquino administration for almost six years until he resigned last year to run for senator and picked Carlos to replace him.

Despite being a fair haired boy of Noynoy, the Liberal Party was forced to dump Tolentino from the senatorial slate after he was tagged as mainly responsible in the controversial twerk performance by an all-female dance group that he hired during a gathering of party members in Laguna last year.

Tolentino however proceeded to run despite being dumped by LP, but had somewhat gravitated to the camp of President Rody Duterte while running as an independent.

A friendly relationship was reportedly established between Tolentino and Duterte during and after the campaign which was confirmed when Duterte visited the wake of the former’s father recently.

These all add up to rumors that Tolentino could indeed be headed back to MMDA once his one year election ban is over. (Erwin Cosau)

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