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    Message of Vice President Leni Robredo at the Rotary Club of Manila Membership Meeting

    Message of Vice President Leni Robredo at the Rotary Club of Manila Membership Meeting


    Good afternoon everyone! Thank you very much for once again inviting me to join you as you come together today for your Membership Meeting.

    I can still remember the last time that we were together physically, back in January of 2020, for your Weekly Luncheon Meeting at the New World Makati. Back then, no one could have imagined our present situation. Over a year and a half into the pandemic, COVID-19 cases continue to rise; many are still dying without even seeing a doctor; millions of Filipinos are out of work, struggling to put food on the table, doing everything they can to survive another day.

    We should all know by now: There is untold hunger, suffering, and death. Hospitals are filled to capacity, our frontliners are exhausted, the jobless are going hungry. Meanwhile, billions upon billions of pesos went into questionable contracts while millions of Filipinos struggle. Bad governance and corruption lie at the root of our problems, and this is the same reason why we feel as if we were left to fend for ourselves, relying on the generosity of each other to survive.

    We have seen this in the bayanihan spirit of the Filipino over the past year: Solidarity has paved the way forward, whether it’s banding together with a group of friends to raise funds for a sack of rice, setting up community pantries, or putting up their own donation drives to give aid to typhoon victims and those who have been affected by the pandemic. You at the Rotary Club also see this spirit firsthand, because I know that you remained active in your communities during the pandemic. At the OVP, we are very fortunate to have worked with various Rotary Clubs even before the pandemic, and in every instance, you showed your commitment and determination to be agents of change. Because of our partnerships in Angat Buhay, we have put up dormitories in the farthest communities of Bukidnon and Negros Occidental, so students do not have to walk very far just to go to school. With your help, we were also able to provide relief assistance to victims of calamities, such as the Taal eruption and the Itbayat earthquake in Batanes, as well as those who need sources of livelihood in Marawi.

    At the OVP, we have also witnessed the power of collaboration and volunteerism as we shifted our focus to our COVID-19 initiatives. By the time ECQ was declared in Metro Manila in March of 2020, our COVID-19 Response Operations were already in place. We were then already providing PPE sets for medical frontliners in many hospitals through the selflessness of volunteers and partners. When we faced a shortage of PPEs because we were competing with the rest of the world, we tapped local dressmakers and community-based sewers to produce more affordable ones, and we partnered with doctors to make sure they are safe. When ECQ was declared, the entire public transport system was paralyzed. So with the help of private partners, we provided shuttle buses and temporary shelters for our health workers, which started the following morning. We plied eight routes in Metro Manila and served 220,000 passengers.

    When we were doing the shuttle service, we learned from the frontliners themselves that they need dormitories where they can stay temporarily. So that same week, we opened free dorms for our frontliners in Metro Manila, again with the help of private partners. We were able to open 12 dormitories, which catered to 498 frontliners. We also built temporary shelters for medical frontliners inside the Lung Center of the Philippines, NKTI, and the Quezon Memorial Medical Center, which we called The Oasis Project. Some of the shelters were used as triage facilities in other hospitals.

    When COVID-19 cases surged in Cebu, we did not hesitate to replicate our programs there through our Bayanihan Sugbuanon initiative. We were able to do bus and ferry shuttle services—our ferry service was from Olango Island to Lapu-Lapu—which catered to 11,768 frontliners. We also opened nine free dormitories, which catered to more than 200 frontliners in Cebu.

    We still regularly distribute food to communities in need to this day, and we source a large part of it from local farmers. In partnership with the local governments of Quezon City, Pasig, Muntinlupa, and Zamboanga City, we also rolled out Community Marts, a digital palengke delivery service that aims to help market vendors and tricycle drivers improve their income during ECQ. Our total sales for our Community Marts reached P30.5 million.

    As we addressed one gap, we discovered others, and moved to fill them. After the Department of Education announced the shift to the Blended Learning Modality, we immediately launched Bayanihan e-Skwela. It began with a simple gadget donation drive, but eventually branched out into three other initiatives given the enormity of the need. First, we teamed up with academics and creatives, who gave their time and skills pro bono, to produce instructional videos which help both students and parents adjust to blended learning. Second, we also set up Community Learning Hubs—these are safe spaces that follow health protocols, with volunteer tutors, learning tools and supplies, an internet connection, for children who do not have gadgets of their own, or might find it hard to adjust to distance learning at home. At present, we are catering to over 4,000 students in our 58 community learning hubs nationwide. And third, we are also conducting more intensive teacher training initiatives with the help of private partners.

    We also reached out to those who were recently unemployed because of the pandemic. We launched, it is an online jobs-matching platform for blue collar workers, where we partnered with 394 employers and posted 29,364 job vacancies on our site. We also launched to help small business owners gain an online presence. With the help of USAID and Philippine Business for Education, we are also opening doors for out-of-school youth through training programs.  Recently, we also launched a Social Entrepreneurs Program with De La Salle University and ING, and another program called Upskills Training Program, also with ING and Dualtech.

    Following the recent surge in COVID cases in NCR, we launched our free telemedicine platform called Bayanihan E-Konsulta. Since we launched last April 7, we have received a total of 74,379 requests already. And to accommodate this, we are doing free teleconsultation with the help of 1,288 volunteer doctors and 4,185 volunteer call bridging agents. Aside from this, we have been providing COVID Care Kits, Mobile Laboratory, and other services to those who need it.

    We also launched our Swab Cab mass testing drive to help test and trace more people who are either getting sick, have been exposed to someone who tested positive, or live in identified high transmission areas. We rolled out Vaccine Express in different LGUs to help speed up vaccine deployment—we have already brought this to Manila, Quezon City, Pasig, Naga, Iriga, San Pedro in Laguna, San Fernando and Magalang in Pampanga, and Capas, Tarlac. This weekend, we will bring Vaccine Express to Cagayan de Oro City.

    All these efforts were made possible only through the selflessness of volunteers and partners; because Filipinos from all walks of life—from big companies to ordinary citizens—came together, helped out, and did what they can. We were able to accomplish a lot of things because collaboration served as the lifeblood of many of our initiatives; because we harnessed the bayanihan spirit of our people, and because we became the center of gravity of many private interventions. It is very clear to us: These collaborations, these partnerships can only be sustained if trust is abundant. This is why we at the OVP worked hard in professionalizing our ranks and fixing the bureaucracy to ensure that we earn the trust of the public. In my first year in office, we already worked to get an ISO Certification, which we achieved in 2017, a year after I took office, and has been recertified every year since then. We also focused on transparency, accountability, and prudent use of funds to achieve the unqualified opinion or the highest audit rating from the Commission on Audit, which we have been getting for three years in a row now. Trust is the currency of governance—and we earn that trust when we act with integrity, with transparency, with compassion, and most of all, with empathy.

    This is the kind of response that we desperately need today, not only to survive COVID-19, but to forge a truly better normal after it—and this is made possible by a leadership that empowers, nurtures, and listens; that harmonizes and collaborates; that transforms good intentions towards concrete action; that unites people towards a singular vision.

    I know that this is the same spirit that animates you at the Rotary Club of Manila. The task for you now is to keep engaging, keep widening and strengthening your networks. Never tire in fighting for your advocacies. Deepen your connections with one another and engage further in your communities. Be creative, be resourceful in seeking solutions. If we are able to solve one problem, let us move further. Find more gaps and let’s fill them, and inspire others to do the same.

    The challenges we face today are enormous, but the opportunities likewise abound—opportunities to engage each other in forging a society that is fairer and kinder; that is more humane, more inclusive; that recognizes the dignity especially of the most vulnerable among us.

    So let us rise as one human family—bound not only by this crisis, but more importantly, by our collective aspirations, and a collective resolve to achieve these. With the spirit of bayanihan guiding our every action—as long as we come together in the spirit of compassion, empathy, community, and love—I have no doubt that we shall overcome. Thank you very much and keep safe.


    Posted in Speeches on Oct 14, 2021