10 October 2016
Keynote message of Vice President Leni Robredo at the Partnerships Against Poverty Summit 2016, SMX Convention Center
We all live at a time and age that has made obsolete what used to be impossible. Did you know that out there, there’s talk of travel to Mars, self-driving cars, and drones that can deliver food or medicine or textbook for your child even if you live in the mountains or far away from the city? The Internet and the mobile phone has massively changed the way we talk to each other. That’s a huge departure from using clouds of smoke to talk to the other mountain.
And yet. We still haven’t solved poverty.
For all of mankind’s bright innovations, for all of our brilliant ideas, one in four persons in our country are still unable to break free from poverty. Each day of extreme hunger steals a slice of our people’s future. Each day of hopelessness kills our people just as surely as bullets do.
In the last 100 days or so after I assumed office as Vice-President, I sought to meet many of the faces of poverty, driven by the need to understand its nationwide scope and how best to address our people’s needs. Our trips were an exercise in not getting lost in the numbers.
Because as I moved around, I kept in my mind the face of this child. Her life matters. Or the face of this grandmother. Her life matters too. Or the face of this mother and father. Theirs are an existence that continues to be a daily struggle, through no fault of their own.
Our poor work very hard. But inefficiencies, barriers to development, and many other challenges make it hard for them to catch with outstretched arms even just a little of the benefits of growth others in society so easily enjoy.
So, instead of waiting for them to tell government what they needed, your government went to them. I promised to do this during the inauguration, so our lean team rode bancas and walked on rice paddies. We hiked mountains and we waded through water. Best of all, we listened.
We learned many things.
First, that poverty is the root cause of many Filipino families’ suffering. Poverty is a larger war that needs our focus and attention. It claims lives of pregnant women who do not have access to proper health care. It causes irreversible stunting in the first 1,000 days of children, forcing them to suffer for the rest of their lives.
Poverty undermines millions of children’s capacity to absorb knowledge and skills that are crucial for gainful employment and livelihood. It has pushed our people, young and old, to take or sell drugs, and commit all forms of crimes. It disempowers and erodes the dignity of the majority of our people, especially in the remote rural areas and the congested urban informal settlements.
Women are disenfranchised. The small farmers, fisherfolk, and laborers who produce our country’s food are ironically the ones who are hungry and lack proper nutrition. They do not earn enough to meet their families’ basic needs.
Second, that we need a lot of financial resources to solve poverty, but the Office of the Vice-President does not, by its nature, have the budget to fight this war. Even in the challenge of bringing homes to the homeless where the budget is larger, we also see the need for complementary budget allocations from other line agencies and local government resources to address the problem more systematically.
Third, and integral to the second point, we need trust among partners to solve poverty. Fortunately, trust is a currency that the OVP has in abundance. Since I assumed office, I am humbled by numerous expressions of support for our anti-poverty campaign.
I received letters from the business community, domestic and foreign NGOs, embassies, multilateral and international aid organizations, each one offering funding support, expertise, and experience through their unique programs and services.
I’ve never looked at aid from other countries as a beggar-donor relationship.
I like to think that it’s a human response to show mercy, compassion, regardless of our nationalities, our race, our religion, and even our political beliefs, our race, our religion and even our political beliefs.
Our diversity and difference must never be a barrier to reach out to each other when anyone is in need.
The problems we face require building bridges, not walls.
They require collaboration, not polarization.
We will succeed faster if we include, not exclude.
And take note: despite the noise out there in the media, the truth is, many are willing to come together and build these bridges.
Many have come to the Office of the Vice President offering help, and I believe it is borne out of a sincere and unconditional desire to help.
I have also come to discover that giving aid is not just about a donor and a donee, and that the donee is not the only party benefitting from such an arrangement.
For me, it is also a partnership of two parties, finding ways and means to find the best solutions to the complex problems of the world.
Our relationship with our foreign neighbors is not a one-way street, where we are the only one on the receiving end.
As such is not about a country begging from another, but about human beings who recognize each other’s limitations, and their need to harness their unique gifts and strengths, for the benefit of the greatest number who remain vulnerable.
Fourth, that the best platform to fulfill our hopes in the fight against poverty is at the local government level, where approaches need to be holistic, customized, and owned by the beneficiaries themselves. We shall therefore bridge LGUs and development partners and orchestrate these projects so that we achieve our goals at the soonest possible time with the least amount of resources.
We are glad to see that 50 of our local CEOs are here, proving that, again, there’s much reason to believe that the fight against eradicating poverty will yield results. Let’s give our LGU officials a warm round of applause.
Fifth, for LGUs to properly orchestrate the holistic change processes in their areas, convergence and collaboration is necessary. Your presence here proves that we are moving in the right direction. Later before lunch, you will be involved in Talakayang Laylayan, or what I call “development speed dating”, the first of its kind done in the history of development work.
The end goal is for LGUs to find your best match, and we are very excited about the concrete gains and collaborative work that we hope to see during this session.
Today is just the beginning of our journey. In a couple of minutes, we will be launching Angat Buhay: Partnerships Against Poverty. This is all of us, making a stand against needless suffering; coming together to build bridges, not walls; facing a brighter future together, through cohesiveness and collaboration.
We have chosen our first batch of LGUs very carefully. If you map out the 50 LGUs present here today, you will see a combination of areas with high poverty incidence and magnitude, difficulties in malnutrition, employment, and education, among others. But most importantly, the LGUs here today have demonstrated a proven track record of openness to work with partners to combat poverty.
I see trustworthy LGUs focused not on politics but on development. I see 312 collaborators in the form of private corporations, aid agencies, CSOs, and sectoral representatives, who are raring to begin the hard work of transforming communities. What a beautiful sight.
But this is just the first batch. We will be bringing Angat Buhay to where it is needed and to places where leadership is most empowering and efficient. Everything that we do here will benefit the Filipino family.
The image I want you all to keep in mind is that family living contentendly within the walls of their own home.
Whatever we are able to put together as collective platforms and roadmaps, I hope to offer to the President as our humble contribution to our shared desire to improve our people’s lives.
As a nation, we cannot be defined by what we are unable to do.
Our potential tells more about us than our past inadequacies.
I believe in our people. I believe in all of you.
Let’s make this work.
Thank you and together, let us seize today’s opportunities!